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Live Updates: Protests For Racial Justice : NPR

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 on Capitol Hill last month.

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Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., speaks during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 on Capitol Hill last month.

Erin Scott/AP

After weeks of railing against the Black district attorney leading the prosecution of the white police officers charged in the killing of Rayshard Brooks last month in Atlanta, a member of the Georgia congressional delegation is taking his criticism a step further – officially calling on the Justice Department to open an investigation.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., on Wednesday formally asked Attorney General William Barr to open a probe into what Collins described as “the egregious abuse of power” by Paul Howard, the Fulton County District Attorney.

Collins goes on to accuse Howard of being driven by “political pressure” when his office brought charges against the arresting Atlanta police officers involved in an altercation with Brooks, who was Black, before he was shot and killed on June 12.

Five days after the shooting, Howard’s office charged Garrett Rolfe with felony murder and 10 other counts. Rolfe faces a possible sentence of life without parole if convicted.

The other officer, Devin Brosnan, was charged with aggravated assault and other lesser crimes.

Brosnan remains with the Atlanta Police Department, while Rolfe was fired shortly after the shooting.

“The timing of these charges – prior to completion of the investigation and prior to presentment before a grand jury – combined with other factors strongly suggests that DA Howard is allowing political pressure to influence his handling of the investigation,” Collins wrote in his letter to the attorney general.

He added the district attorney “should be immediately removed from his position” if Howard does not believe grand juries should exist in cases where law enforcement officers are defendants.

“I ask that you engage any and all Department of Justice resources you consider appropriate to ensure that these officers are treated fairly under the law,” Collins said.

Neither the Fulton County District Attorney’s office or the Justice Department responded to NPR’s request for comment.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out, Howard faces a runoff election next month for a seventh term as district attorney.

The letter from Collins, a fourth-term congressman and son of a former Georgia state trooper, appears to go further than his previous calls that Howard recuse himself in the case.

Collins is running for the U.S. Senate.

His note to the Justice Department comes a day after Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., who was appointed to that seat in December and is running against Collins, herself wrote a letter.

Loeffler, told WNBA officials she was “adamantly opposed” of the league embracing a Black Lives Matter platform when the season tips off later this month.

The senator, who is also a co-owner of the WNBA franchise the Atlanta Dream, added she was “incredibly disappointed to read about efforts to insert a political platform into the league.”

The league said the season is dedicated to social justice reforms and to highlight women like Breonna Taylor and others who the WNBA said are “the forgotten victims of police brutality and violence.”

Taylor was shot and killed in her home by Louisville police executing a late night search warrant in March.

The WNBA and the players association announced this week that for the entire season players will wear warmup shirts with both “Black Lives Matter and “Say Her Name” displayed on it.

Loeffler suggested instead that the league should put an American flag on all player jerseys, as well as licensed apparel for coaches, players and fans.

“The WNBA is based on the principle of equal and fair treatment of all people and we, along with the teams and players, will continue to use our platforms to vigorously advocate for social justice,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert said in a statement.

Both Loeffler and Collins have done interviews on Fox News in recent days praising Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp for calling up the National Guard after a recent uptick in violence in the Atlanta area over the 4th of July weekend.

A third candidate is also running for the Senate in the fall.

Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the same church where funeral for Rayshard Brooks was held last month, is running as a Democrat.

Warnock delivered the eulogy at the funeral.

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Kansas’ Bollier joins ranks of Senate Democratic challengers raising big money in second quarter

WASHINGTON — Kansas Senate Democratic contender Barbara Bollier broke the record for the largest reported single-quarter fundraising filing of any federal, state, or local candidate in the state’s history, her campaign said Wednesday.

Bollier, endorsed by the DSCC and widely viewed as the favorite to win the August 4 Democratic primary, raised $3.7 million in the second quarter, lasting from April through June, with over $4 million in cash on hand according to her team. That’s over $1 million more than the $2.35 million she raised in the first quarter of 2020. 

The campaign also said that almost 81 percent of those contributions were from first-time donors in a press statement. 

Kansas State Sen. Barbara Bollier speaks at the Statehouse in Topeka on April 26, 2018.John Hanna / AP file

The current state senator’s sizable cash haul is just one example of Senate Democratic challengers raking in big fundraising totals in the second quarter as the party tries to take back the Senate majority. Democrats aiming to unseat GOP Senate incumbents in Maine, the Carolinas, and Montana recently released their own eye-popping fundraising sums.

Bollier, a former Republican herself, hopes to become the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate race in Kansas since 1932. But despite the state’s history of red representation in Congress, the Senate seat left open by retiring GOP Sen. Pat Roberts is considered winnable for Democrats under the right conditions with some Republicans worried that if former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach becomes their party’s nominee, the seat could be in play. 

Kobach, who lost the state’s 2018 gubernatorial contest to Democrat Laura Kelly, does not have the support of one of the most important trappings of the GOP establishment — the NRSC.

“Just last year Kris Kobach ran and lost to a Democrat. Now, he wants to do the same and simultaneously put President Trump’s presidency and Senate Majority at risk,” NRSC spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez said last year after Kobach launched his bid. “We know Kansans won’t let that happen and we look forward to watching the Republican candidate they do choose win next fall.

Kobach’s GOP rival, Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall, has racked up a number of significant endorsements and the Republican-aligned group, Plains PAC, also launched a multi-million dollar ad campaign Tuesday opposing Kobach’s candidacy.

And even though Kobach continues to make headlines, the Republican field ahead of next month’s primary remains crowded with almost a dozen candidates vying to advance to an expected general election match-up with Bollier in November.

New poll finds majority of Americans disagree with Trump on meaning of ‘defund the police’

WASHINGTON — As President Trump is launching new ads attacking calls to “defund the police” and stoking racial and cultural division on Twitter, a new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t agree with the way the president is framing the police-reform movement. 

The new survey from Monmouth University found that 77 percent of American adults say that “defund the police” means to “change the way the police departments operate,” not to eliminate them. That view is  shared by 73 percent of white, non-college educated Americans and two-thirds of Republicans, Trump’s core voters. 

Just 18 percent of Americans say the movement wants to “get rid of police departments,” a view shared by only 28 percent of Republicans and 18 percent of independents. 

A protester holds a sign that reads, “Defund the Police” during a protest in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 7, 2020.Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

The president has criticized those calling to “defund the police,” addressing it when he signed an executive order on policing last month. 

“I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defend, dismantle and dissolve our police departments, especially now when we’ve achieved the lowest recorded crime rates in recent history,” Trump said. “Americans know the truth: Without police, there is chaos. Without law, there is anarchy. And without safety, there is catastrophe.”

Trump’s re-election campaign has attempted to leverage the issue into an attack on former Vice President Joe Biden, spending more than $3 million in less than a week running television ads both in English and Spanish that imagines a police department that’s been defunded and unable to respond to serious, violent crimes. 

Biden does not support blanket cuts to police budgets. He told The Daily Show on June 11 that he supported linking federal dollars to fundamental changes in police departments including abiding by a national use-of-force standard and releasing police misconduct data. 

Sixty-two percent of Americans say that Trump’s handling of the recent protests on reforming policing has made the “current situation worse,” with just 20 percent saying he’s made it better. Sixty-five percent say that the actions of protestors in recent months were justified, with 29 percent saying the actions were not justified. 

On the Black Lives Matter movement specifically, 71 percent of Americans say that the movement has “brought attention to real racial disparities in American society,” but a plurality, 38 percent say that the movement has made racial issues in America worse, compared to 26 percent who say the movement has made racial issues better. 

Trump has heavily leaned into stoking racial division in recent weeks, blasting the push to take down Confederate statues as about erasing “our heritage” He called on NASCAR’s only full-time Black driver to apologize after an investigation into a door-pull rope shaped like a noose found in his garage ruled out a hate crime. And he retweeted a video of supporters shouting “white power” before deleting it a few hours later. 

Monmouth University polled 867 adults in the United States between June 26 and June 30. The margin of error in the poll is +/- 3.3 percentage points. 

Analysis: Trump makes school reopening a referendum on Trump

WASHINGTON — Barreling into the complex and sensitive policy conversation over reopening schools, President Trump made clear this week he wants in-person classes back full-time and said efforts to do otherwise are “political,” even as his administration’s school plans remain murky. 

On Tuesday, the White House held a series of calls and events on reopening in which Trump said he would “put pressure on governors and everybody else” to fill classrooms. His campaign has accused teachers unions, some of which have expressed concerns about staff safety, of slowing the process. 

“We hope that most schools are going to be open. We don’t want people to make political statements or do it for political reasons — they think it’s going to be good for them politically so they keep the schools closed. No way,” Trump said at a Tuesday White House event, adding that re-opening schools is “very important for the wellbeing of the student and the parents.” 

One day earlier, Trump tweeted a conspiracy theory that officials would try to keep schools from opening in order to boost Joe Biden’s candidacy, even as national Democrats have called for hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to implement reopening plans.

Biden’s coronavirus response plan calls school re-openings “perhaps the single most important step to get parents back to work” and he’s backed an unspecified amount of federal aid, more research, and a national clearinghouse to share best practices on safety. 

Trump appears to be betting that angry parents will blame more cautious Democrats for any disruption while former Vice President Joe Biden and national Democrats are betting that their early push for federal aid to schools and emphasis on safety will resonate. 

President Donald Trump, flanked first lady Melania Trump by Vice President Mike Pence, from left, participate in an event with students, teachers and administrators about how to safely re-open schools during the novel coronavirus pandemic in the East Room at the White House on July 7, 2020.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Public health experts are torn on how to approach the issue and state and local officials in many places have warned parents to expect a “hybrid” of in-person classes and remote learning, which could further disrupt family’s work and child care plans.

A June NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 50 percent of voters with children under 18 are still “uncomfortable” sending their children to school or daycare in the fall.  

“I think it’s clear what the administration wants to do, I’m not certain how much the event from today provides more clarity or any advice or information that’s actionable,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for policy and advocacy at the American Association of School Administrators. 

Some school advocates were puzzled by the White House’s abrupt shift towards a full reopening, in part because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already had issued recommendations for reopening plans that include keeping children at least six-feet apart “if feasible.” There are concerns whether that can be done without reducing the number of kids in the building, which has helped drive plans that would shift some students online part-time.

“This is really going to put schools in a tough spot because the CDC guidelines made it clear social distancing should be the goal,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank. “There’s no way you can do that at full capacity.” 

White House officials said Tuesday that they never intended their recommendations to be interpreted this way, citing less strict recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics — rather than their own agencies — calling for in-person learning.

“Nothing would cause me greater sadness than to see any school district or school use our guidance as a reason not to reopen,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said. 

At the White House event, one California principal praised Trump’s leadership and said he planned to reopen in August, but added the school was also considering a “hybrid” plan with 2 class days a week. The president replied that he hoped the school would be able to hold full, five-day weeks — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos slammed a Virginia school district for its “hybrid” plan earlier Tuesday. 

But the issue doesn’t start and end with the White House — there have been calls throughout the summer for Congress to help schools too. 

The previous CARES Act included $13.5 billion for K-12 education, but education advocates have called for a massive infusion of federal aid to help schools retain and hire staff and implement new safety procedures. 

The HEROES Act, which was passed by the House in May but has not received a vote in the Senate, contained $58 billion for schools.

Senate Democratic leaders are backing a $430 billion education bill by Senator Patty Murray of Washington. But the White House and broader GOP’s full position on aid is still unknown and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said he wants to address the next round of relief when the Senate returns on July 20, just weeks before schools start to reopen. 

Democratic challengers announce big fundraising hauls as party looks to take back Senate

WASHINGTON — As Republicans nervously watch President Donald Trump’s slide in the presidential polls, Democratic candidates for Senate are raking in record sums for their bids to unseat GOP incumbents and take back control of the upper chamber

South Carolina Democratic Senate nominee Jaime Harrison is the latest to announce a monster haul as he seeks to oust Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the president’s staunchest allies. For the second-quarter fundraising period running from April to June, Harrison’s campaign says it raked in almost $14 million, nearly double his fundraising total from the previous quarter.

As of Tuesday morning, Graham had not released his fundraising total for the quarter, and had raised more than $26 million through June 20, according to his most current report with the Federal Election Commission. 

Despite his fundraising prowess, though, Harrison still faces an uphill battle in a race in a state that voted for Trump by a 14-point margin in 2016.  

The staggering South Carolina sum was the latest in a string of buoying news for Senate Democrats hoping to harness anti-Trump sentiment to flip red seats blue in November. Challengers in at least three other high-profile Senate races — in Montana, North Carolina and Maine — have also announced impressive totals for the quarter.

All three races are rated by the Cook Political Report as toss-ups. 

In Maine, state House speaker Sara Gideon raised $9 million in the second quarter, another eye-popping sum from a candidate who has put up strong fundraising numbers since she jumped into the race to take on Republican Sen. Susan Collins. Gideon is the favorite to win the state’s July 14 primary, and whichever Democrat wins will also be the beneficiary of the millions of dollars raised pegged to Collins’ support for confirming Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, money that was earmarked for her eventual Democratic opponent. 

Maine’s Senate race is already setting up to be costly — there’s been more than $36.7 million spent on the airwaves in the race so far, according to Advertising Analytics, more than in any other Senate race. Collins had raised $16.2 million through June 24, while Gideon had raised $23 million by that point. 

U.S. Senate candidate Sara Gideon speaks at campaign event on Feb. 19, 2020 in Skowhegan, Maine.Robert F. Bukaty / AP

In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock set a single-quarter record for a Senate candidate in the state with his $7.7 million total. Bullock, a two-term governor of the state, hopes to oust incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines. Through March, Daines had raised $9.4 million for his re-election bid. 

And in North Carolina, State Sen. Cal Cunningham’s campaign announced Monday that it had raised $7.4 million in the second fundraising quarter, a quarterly total more than any candidate has raised for a Senate bid in North Carolina since at least 1979. That’s the earliest year from which the Federal Election Commission makes campaign finance reports available. 

Cunningham had raised $7.7 million through March, compared to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis’ $11.7 million raised over the same period. 

Most of the fundraising data released so far does not include context like total spending, cash on hand or loans to the campaigns. A fuller picture of each candidate’s fundraising will be available when candidates file official paperwork to the FEC, which they are not required to do until later this month.

The strong fundraising quarter comes as Democrats try to expand their pathways to winning back the Senate majority. The party needs to gain a net of four seats in November to win control of the Senate (or three plus the presidency, since the vice president breaks ties in the Senate). But far more Republican-held seats are expected to be in play in November than Democratic-held ones. 

Sen. Ernst releases first campaign ad of 2020 cycle with China center stage

WASHINGTON — Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, joined a chorus of GOP candidates making tough-on-China pitches this cycle, releasing her first 2020 campaign ad Monday centered on the “supply chain threat” posed by the country.

“We rely on communist China for far too much, from technology to medicine. So I’m fighting to bring it home,” Ernst says in the 30-second spot. “Saving America starts with made in America.”

Ernst is considered one of the more vulnerable Republican senators heading into November, with polling suggesting the Iowa race is more competitive than initially thought and heavy Democratic spending in the state. Since Ernst’s opponent Theresa Greenfield won the Democratic primary last month, Democrats have spent about $3.7 million on TV and radio ads in the Senate contest compared to $3 million by Republicans, according to Advertising Analytics.

Ernst’s campaign has about $825,000 booked through the end of the month, compared to $480,000 booked by Greenfield’s campaign. But outside groups have, and will continue, to play a big role in this race on both sides.

The new spot, “All Over,” represents the latest example of Republican candidates making China central to their messaging this election season.

President Trump’s reelection campaign and his super PAC, America First Action, have accused his Democratic rival Joe Biden of failing to hold China accountable in past ads — a theme that has trickled down to races across the country and employed in Senate ads in Arizona and Kansas. The National Republican Senatorial Committee circulated a memo to GOP campaigns in April detailing how to best make China an issue this cycle, POLITICO reported.

—Ben Kamisar contributed.

Previewing the New Jersey primary contests

Voters will head to the polls Tuesday for primary contests in New Jersey, where election administrators have promoted mail-in voting as the state seeks to avoid a second major surge in coronavirus cases.

In recent weeks, all registered Democratic and Republican voters have received a ballot in the mail, while unaffiliated and inactive voters have received absentee ballot applications. Additionally, every municipality in the state will open at least one polling location.

Mail-in ballots postmarked by Tuesday will be accepted through the July 14, so it’s likely that some races will not be called on Tuesday night. 

New Jersey-2: Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who changed his party affiliation in 2019, is facing his first serious primary with challengers. On the Democratic side, the frontrunners are political scientist Brigid Callahan Harrison — who’s won the backing of both of the state’s senators as well as key local union groups and politicians — and Amy Kennedy, a former public school teacher who is the wife of former Rep. Patrick Kennedy and the daughter-in-law of former Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy. 

Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., conducts a news conference introducing legislation that would help offset expenses incurred by new parents in the Capitol on Dec. 4, 2019.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

New Jersey-3: Republicans Kate Gibbs and David Richter are jostling for the right to take on freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Kim. Kim, the only current member of Congress of Korean descent, represents a heavily white district that supported Donald Trump in 2016, even though Kim flipped the district blue in his 2018 election. 

New Jersey-7: An array of Republicans, including N.J. state Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean Jr., are fighting for the GOP nomination. The winner will take on first-term Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, a prolific fundraiser who is uncontested in his party’s primary.

New Jersey-8: Democratic Rep. Albio Sires is facing a formidable primary challenge from lawyer Hector Oseguera, who is backed by major progressive groups including the Sunrise Movement and Our Revolution. In this deep-blue district, the winner of the Democratic primary is all but guaranteed a seat in Congress.

U.S. Senate: Democratic Sen. Cory Booker is also facing a progressive primary challenger, and a number of Republicans are competing for the chance to challenge him this fall. But Booker is unlikely to be  threatened on either front.

The races reflect some of the push-and-pull dynamics seen on the national level (and which will come to a head in November). Republicans are looking to win back seats in traditionally conservative strongholds, while Democrats hope to capitalize on the “blue wave” gains made in the 2018 midterms and hold onto control of the House. 

Tipton the latest incumbent to lose party’s nomination

WASHINGTON — There was a big surprise in Tuesday’s primary elections — five-term incumbent Colorado Republican Rep. Scott Tipton lost to Lauren Boebert, a gun-rights activist and restaurant owner who flouted coronavirus regulations and has spoken favorably about a fringe conspiracy theory. 

Incumbents rarely lose, especially in a primary. But Tipton joins a handful of other incumbents whose parties voted them out so far this cycle. (Two other longtime Democratic incumbents, Reps. Eliot Engel and Carolyn Maloney, may also be bracing to join that group as New York continues to count mail-in ballots from the state’s June 23 primary election.)

Here’s a look at the House incumbents who have already lost their party’s nomination, and how they went down. 

llinois Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski

The writing was on the wall for Lipinski, one of the only House Democrats who had supported anti-abortion rights legislation. 

While nonprofit executive Marie Newman fell just a few thousand votes short to Lipinski in 2018, Newman was able to get over the hump and take Lipinski down in the 2020 primary. 

Newman had a lot of progressive allies in her corner — a group affiliated with EMILY’s List spent about $1 million on TV ads to boost her, and several influential progressive groups, including NARAL, backed her primary bid. 

Illinois’ third congressional district, which includes a portion of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, is considered a safely-Democratic one, as 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won it by double-digits. So Newman is expected to join Congress in 2021. 

Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King

King’s loss came after a series of racist and controversial comments cost him support within his own party. 

House Republicans stripped King of his committee assignments in 2019, after he asked in a New York Times interview: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” That left King without much of a say in Congress, something his rivals used against him in the 2020 primary. 

While largely steering away from King’s rhetoric on race, state Sen. Randy Feenstra bludgeoned King over the fact he couldn’t serve on committees in Congress, arguing that he could not adequately serve the district or defend President Trump with a muted voice in Congress. 

And groups like the Republican Main Street Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce made similar arguments as they rallied around Feenstra, who ultimately emerged victorious in June’s Republican primary

King represented the rural district for years, and the district backed Trump by almost 30 points in 2016 (according to the Cook Political Report). But the district might not be as solidly red anymore. In 2018, Democrats were able to get within just a few points of King with Democrat J.D. Scholten. And Scholten’s running again in 2020, although it may be harder for Democrats to flip the seat without having the advantage of running against King and his baggage. 

Virginia Republican Rep. Denver Riggleman

Riggleman’s time in Congress will be short, as the former Air Force officer-turned-distiller will be kicked to the curb after taking office in 2019. 

Local Republican activists bristled at his decision to officiate a same-sex wedding, a move that sparked a county Republican Party to censure him and another to give him a vote of no confidence

That controversy is one main reason why Bob Good, the former athletics director at Liberty University, ultimately emerged victorious in June during a drive-through convention, a method Riggleman argued stacked the deck against him. 

This is another seat that could see a competitive race in November, as Democratic nominee Cameron Webb significantly outraised Good during the primary. And Riggleman had a relatively close race in 2018, when he won the sprawling Virginia district that’s larger than a handful of U.S. states by 6 points.  

Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton

Tipton is the latest incumbent to fall in a primary after Boebert came hard-charging from his right, Tipton he wasn’t conservative enough to represent the western Colorado district. 

Boebert is a familiar face in the district, she co-owns Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colo., where servers open carry guns (click here to watch a 2014 interview with Boebert on NBC about that decision). 

But she’s made headlines more recently for more controversial positions — she flouted coronavirus regulations to keep Shooters Grill open despite local orders and she spoke supportively about the fringe Qanon conspiracy theory.

Despite her comments about Qanon, the campaign arm of House Republicans has said it will still back her as the party looks to hold onto the seat Trump won by 12 points in 2016. But Democrats hope that the controversy around Boebert can help them win the seat back two years after Diane Mitsch Bush, who is running again, lost by 8 points. 

Biden VP Watch: Spotlight on Harris, Duckworth and Rice

WASHINGTON — While Joe Biden’s self-imposed deadline to announce his vice presidential pick is just about a month away, Biden allies continue to press him to pick a woman of color.  

South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden ahead of the South Carolina Democratic primary set the stage for Biden’s comeback in South Carolina and Super Tuesday. So when Clyburn said in April that it “would be great for him to select a woman of color”, many saw that as a signal of the direction Biden would go.

Clyburn reinforced those comments this week, but added that the only “must” of this campaign is to win. 

“It would be a plus to have an African American woman,” Clyburn said in an interview with The Guardian. “And I’ll reiterate I have never said it is a must. The only must is to win this campaign. That’s a must, not just for Black people but for the country.”

Joe Biden and Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., embrace as Clyburn announces his endorsement for Biden in North Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 26, 2020.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Heading into Fourth of July weekend, here’s how some of the women being vetted for the job are stacking up: 

Sen. Kamala Harris: The California senator has long been seen as a frontrunner for the veep job given her personal history with the Biden family and her ability to debate and bring in supporters. But those debate skills could also be her Achilles heel in the vetting process. 

During the first Democratic primary debate, Harris went after Biden for his comments on segregationists and his opposition to mandated busing in the ‘70s. In March, former second lady Jill Biden called the attack a “punch to the gut.” But now, she’s saying the past is the past, an important development from one of the most important voices in Biden’s inner circle.

“It’s politics. You get over it. You just move on. You have to, right? I mean you can’t just keep harboring ill will. So, I mean, it’s just part of what politics is,” Biden said on The View this week. 

It’s unlikely the presumptive Democratic nominee would pick a running mate without the thumbs up from Jill Biden – and this could be the go-ahead he’s looking for. 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth: Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who received the Purple Heart, has flown under the radar in the veepstakes — but now the progressive group VoteVets has thrown its support behind the Illinois senator. 

VoteVets put out a video this week saying that a Biden-Duckworth ticket would “inspire” the country. 

“Tammy’s tough and will take it to the coward in chief,” the video narrator says. They add, “Tammy Duckworth opens doors to new voters, winning swing voters and sweeping to victory in the Midwest the same year Trump was elected.” 

Earlier this week on MSNBC, Duckworth was asked about whether she’s answered questions for the Biden vetting team.

“I answer questions all the time,” Duckworth said. “So, at this point, the vetters – they have got their whole process at the Biden camp. I’m not going to interfere with that. I’m, again, focused on getting Joe Biden elected.”

Susan Rice: This week, reports surfaced that the United States gathered intelligence that Russia offered the Taliban a bounty to kill American soldiers. That kind of foreign policy debacle could raise the stakes for a potential vice presidential pick — and former U.N. Ambassador and national security adviser Susan Rice could fill that gap, although she drew the ire of many Republicans during the fallout from the 2012 attack in Benghazi. 

Rice published an op-ed this week in which she detailed what would have happened had she received that intelligence as national security adviser. Rice wrote, “At best, our commander in chief is utterly derelict in his duties.” She added, “At worst, the White House is being run by liars and wimps catering to a tyrannical president who is actively advancing our arch adversary’s nefarious interests.” 

This week on MSNBC, Rice said there isn’t a “higher imperative” than getting Biden elected and that she is “humbled and honored” to be considered. 

Check out the NBC News political unit’s coverage of the veepstakes here

Liz Brown-Kaiser contributed. 

President Trump expected to host fundraiser in Florida despite coronavirus spike

WASHINGTON — President Trump is expected to travel to Florida next week to host a high-dollar, in-person fundraiser on July 10 for his re-election effort, according to a Republican familiar with the event. 

The dinner is set to take place at a private home in Hillsboro Beach, Fla. and will raise money for Trump Victory, the joint fundraising effort between the campaign and the Republican National Committee. 

Ticket prices for the event are $580,600 per couple, and Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel are slated to co-host. 

Due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, all donors will have to test negative for the virus on the day of the fundraiser and the will also have to pass temperature checks and fill out a wellness questionnaire before the event. Test costs will be covered by Trump Victory. 

President Donald Trump speaks during a fundraiser in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Sept. 7, 2018.Nicholas Kamm / AFP – Getty Images

Florida has seen a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks — the state has had about 113,000 new cases since June 1, about two-thirds of the state’s 169,106 cases, according to NBC News analysis. 

This will be the president’s first high-dollar fundraiser in July. In June, Trump hosted two multi-million, in-person fundraisers: one at a private residence in Dallas and one in Bedminster, N.J. at his golf resort. 

The fundraiser comes after presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee outraised the GOP entities for the second consecutive month. 

It’s unclear whether the president will do anything else while he is in Florida. He hasn’t been to the state, which is now technically his official residence, since the weekend of March 6 when he hosted the Brazilian delegation at his Mar-a-Lago club. Several members of that group later tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the resort to close down much of its business for several months. 

The Trump campaign later halted all in-person events because of the pandemic, but held its first in-person rally in Tulsa, Okla. and several fundraisers in recent weeks.

Despite the spike in coronavirus cases in Florida, Vice President Pence is schedule to travel to Florida on Thursday. 

Police union head lashes out at AFL-CIO leadership over police reform comments

LOS ANGELES — The International Union of Police Associations, a major police union under fire by activists for its protection of its members, lashed out at the AFL-CIO in a June letter over comments made by the AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka on police reform measures. The police union called them “ridiculous” and “disgraceful.”  

In a letter to Trumka, obtained by NBC News, Sam Cabral, president of the International Union of Police Associations, said Trumka’s comments condemning “America’s long history of racism and police violence against black people” were both “inflammatory” and “patently false.” 

Cabral added, “Your call to end racial profiling and to ‘demilitarize”’police forces makes assumptions that are, again, ridiculous. Racial profiling is already banned in every police agency I am aware of.”

Cabral’s letter came in response to a larger statement from the AFL-CIO announcing proposals on ways to encourage reform in police unions and law enforcement departments after George Floyd died when a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the back of his neck for nearly nine minutes. That officer has been charged with second-degree murder for his actions. Trumka’s comments came as part of that statement.  

The AFL-CIO declined to push police unions from their federation, saying that “the best way to use our influence on the issue of police brutality is to engage our police affiliates rather than isolate them.”

A boy rides a scooter past signs outside the boarded-up entrance to AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington on June 6, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP file

Cabral said he and other police officers had been “shocked and saddened” by what happened to Floyd, but rejected the idea that all police officers should be painted in a negative light.

“It is disgraceful that you would dishonor all of law enforcement based on the act of one, or the extreme few,” Cabral wrote. 

Cabral’s letter was first reported by labor magazine, In These Times. The AFL-CIO and IUPA did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment. 

Recently, NBC News reached out to all 55 affiliated members of the AFL-CIO to gauge their view of police unions. Many did not respond or declined to comment, and only one, the Writer’s Guild of America East, called for the expulsion of police from the labor federation. Several said police and other law enforcement unions needed to be open to reform, but not at the expense of labor solidarity.

However, many smaller local unions across the U.S. are calling for police to be removed from the labor federation, or are actively demanding police unions acknowledge their role in resisting reform. 

Cabral acknowledged those pressures, but pointed to the support police unions received from others in the federation as approval to stay in the AFL-CIO. 

“I hear no call to remove the police officers, deputy sheriffs, and corrections officers from the dozen of other internationals which represent them,” wrote Cabral. “We are more than willing and even anxious to discuss how we can improve” what “we believe are misconceptions that cause fear in some members of our communities.”

“We will not, however, sit down with those that march the streets calling for our death or those with a loud voice that have already indicted 850,000 men and women based on one horrible incident,” added Cabral, referring to Floyd’s death, omitting numerous other incidents in recent years. 

This isn’t the first time labor leaders have clashed over policing. In 2014, after Michael Brown was fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Mo., Trumka signed a letter to President Obama advocating for police reform. 

Cabral dismissed that letter as well, writing at the time that police “are not the cause of the problems facing the black communities in America.” 

“[Police] are not responsible for the single parent families, the unemployment, the school dropout rate or its attendant unacceptable literacy among black youth,” wrote Cabral in 2014. “They are not responsible for the gangs, black on black crime, or the infant mortality rate.” 

NRCC will back Colorado candidate who has expressed support for fringe theory

WASHINGTON — The House Republican campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Wednesday it would back a Colorado candidate who toppled one of its incumbents but has faced criticism for comments supporting the fringe, QAnon conspiracy theory

Lauren Boebert, a gun-rights activist and restaurant owner, defeated five-term Republican Rep. Scott Tipton in a defeat most didn’t see coming, and one that could significantly shift the contours of the general election in the district. 

But Boebert made news earlier this spring after her decision to flout coronavirus regulations and operate her Shooters Grill (in Rifle, Colo.) despite local orders.

(Watch a 2014 interview with Boebert below, where she spoke with NBC’s Craig Melvin about her decision to allow servers at her restaurant to open carry.)

But her decision to defy coronavirus-related restrictions isn’t the only controversy about Boebert — during an appearance on an internet show, Boebert said she’s “familiar” with the QAnon conspiracy theory and that “I hope that this is real. Because it only means America is getting stronger and better and people are returning to conservative values.”

QAnon is primarily a conspiracy theory that argues an anonymous, high-ranking government official, “Q,” is sharing breadcrumbs on the internet alluding to a war between President Trump and the “deep state.”

As NBC’s Dareh Gregorian wrote in a recent NBC article about Qanon-promoting candidates: “The conspiracy posts, first shared through the website 4chan in 2017, also hint at a much darker plot in which many of those figures control a worldwide child sex-trafficking ring.”

After facing numerous questions about whether the NRCC would still back Boebert, the group’s chairman, Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, said it would in a statement congratulating her. 

“Lauren won her primary fair and square and has our support. This is a Republican seat and will remain a Republican seat as Nancy Pelosi and senior House Democrats continue peddling their radical conspiracy theories and pushing their radical cancel culture,” he said.

“With Lauren’s win, we now have more female nominees than at any other point in the history of the Republican Party and that is a point that should be celebrated.”

Democrats criticized the NRCC for not disavowing Boebert, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blasting out a press release recounting many of her controversial comments. Robyn Patterson, , a DCCC spokesperson, said in a statement that “choosing to stand behind this dangerous and despicable nonsense is a new level of recklessness.”

Democrats are also hopeful that the surprise could improve their chances in the district.

Tipton beat Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush in the district by 8 points in 2018 —Mitsch Bush is the Democratic nominee for the district and has vastly outraised Boebert so far this cycle. 

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Supreme Court sides with Trump in birth control opt-out case

By JESSICA GRESKO

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled broadly Wednesday in favor of the religious rights of employers in two cases that could leave more than 70,000 women without free contraception and tens of thousands of people with no way to sue for job discrimination.

In both cases the court ruled 7-2, with both liberal and conservative justices ruling in favor of the Trump administration and religious employers.

In the more prominent of the two cases, involving President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, the justices greenlighted changes the Trump administration had sought. The administration announced in 2017 that it would allow more employers to opt out of providing the no-cost birth control coverage required under the law, but lower courts had blocked the changes.

The ruling is a significant election-year win for President Donald Trump, who counts on heavy support from evangelicals and other Christian groups for votes and policy backing. It was also good news for the administration, which in recent weeks has seen headline-making Supreme Court decisions go against its positions.

In one, the court rejected Trump’s effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants. In another, the justices said a landmark civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination in employment.

Another particularly important decision for Trump is ahead. The justices are expected to announce Thursday whether Congress and the Manhattan district attorney can see the president’s taxes and other financial records he has fought hard to keep private.

On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany joined conservative groups in cheering the court’s contraception decision. “Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a big win for religious freedom and freedom of conscience,” she said in a statement.

Liberal groups and Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, decried the decision, which she called a “fundamental misreading” of the healthcare law.

The Trump administration is still seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. It has joined Texas and other Republican-led states in calling on the justices to do just that. That case is scheduled to be argued in the court term that begins in October.

Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority of the court, said in Wednesday’s decision that the administration had the authority to make the changes and followed appropriate procedures in doing so.

The government had previously estimated that the rule changes would cause between 70,000 women and 126,000 women to lose contraception coverage in one year.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited those numbers in dissenting.

“Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” she wrote in a dissent joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Birth control coverage has been a topic of contention since the health care law was passed.

“The ACA’s contraceptive mandate … has existed for approximately nine years. Litigation surrounding that requirement has lasted nearly as long,” Thomas wrote.

Initially, churches, synagogues and mosques were exempt from the contraceptive coverage requirement. The Obama administration also created a way by which religiously affiliated organizations including hospitals, universities and charities could opt out of paying for contraception, but women on their health plans would still get no-cost birth control. Some groups complained the opt-out process itself violated their religious beliefs, and years of legal wrangling followed.

After Trump took office, officials announced changes. Under a new policy issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, can opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious objections. The policy also allows some employers, though not publicly traded companies, to raise moral objections and do the same.

The changes were blocked by courts after New Jersey and Pennsylvania challenged them.

Future administrations could attempt to alter the Trump administration rules. And two liberal justices who sided with the administration, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, suggested the legal fight over the administration’s changes may continue.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement after the ruling, “This fight is not over.”

Separately Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided with two Catholic schools in California in a decision underscoring that certain employees of religious schools can’t sue for employment discrimination.

The court had ruled unanimously in 2012 that the Constitution prevents ministers from suing their churches for employment discrimination, but the justices didn’t rigidly define who counts as a minister. The case the justices decided Wednesday involved two Catholic school teachers who taught religion as part of their jobs and who sued their schools for discrimination after their contracts were not renewed.

“When a school with a religious mission entrusts a teacher with the responsibility of educating and forming students in the faith, judicial intervention into disputes between the school and the teacher threatens the school’s independence in a way that the First Amendment does not allow,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority, saying the teachers’ lawsuits should not be allowed to go forward.

___

Associated Press reporter Mark Sherman contributed to this report.

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Democratic Senate candidates rake in massive donations

A group of Democratic challengers to incumbent Republican U.S. senators has once again posted massive fundraising numbers, raising the party’s hopes of reclaiming the Senate from the GOP in the November election.

The Democrats’ figures, which include donations between April and June, are all the more impressive for coming while the nation underwent a historic economic crunch because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, challenging Republican Sen. Steve Daines, reported raising $7.7 million in the year’s second quarter. Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon raised $9 million over the same period in her contest against Republican Sen. Susan Collins. Former North Carolina state Sen. Cal Cunningham reported a $7.4-million haul in his bid against Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.

The fundraising spree has extended into typically deep-red South Carolina, where former state Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison amassed $13.9 million over the quarter in a showdown with prominent Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. In Kentucky, former combat pilot Amy McGrath’s campaign reported raising $17.4 million for the quarter in her challenge against GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Some of these Democratic challengers are raising crazy amounts of money for a single quarter,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director at the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political spending. “The average winning Senate candidate last cycle spent a total of $15.7 million for the cycle.”

The Republican candidates have not yet posted their figures. Campaigns tend to release fundraising numbers earlier when they’ve had a strong quarter, experts say.

Krumholz said the Democratic totals were “extraordinary,” because just a few months ago, several of the Democratic challengers would have been viewed as “long shots” who “would have had great difficulty raising this kind of money.”

The huge hauls are just the latest in a series of alarm bells for the GOP, whose leader, President Trump, significantly trails Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden in the polls and has flailed in recent months with his responses to a historic pandemic and an impassioned activist movement for Black lives.

In polling that only tests party affiliation, generic congressional Democratic candidates lead GOP candidates by more than 10 percentage points, according to an average by Real Clear Politics. The Democratic fundraising crush raises the prospect that the Republican Party might reprise its disastrous showing in the 2018 midterm, when Democrats took over the House of Representatives.

A “green wave” of Democratic cash in that midterm “was just far too much for Republican incumbents to overcome, and [Democrats] ended up picking up and flipping the House, and I think these are sort of the telltale signs we are seeing in the Senate as well,” said Jessica Taylor, the Senate and governors editor at the nonpartisan Cook Report, which tracks elections.

Of the 35 Senate seats up for election this cycle, 23 are held by Republicans, giving Democrats multiple opportunities to pick up the three seats needed to claim a majority in the chamber.

“The problem for Republicans is that Democrats are going to have the resources to get their message out and keep expanding the map in our direction by putting more Republican seats in play,” said Stewart Boss, national press secretary for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Not just Arizona and Colorado, but South Carolina and Kentucky, where those are tougher states.”

National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Jesse Hunt said in a statement that “Democrats will need to spend every penny to defend records that are disqualifying in the eyes of mainstream voters who will decide the outcome in key Senate races. Personal scandals and a party rallying around a socialist agenda are problems money can’t solve.”

Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections, a nonpartisan newsletter, thinks that “the biggest surprise is that these monster fundraising quarters are no surprise anymore,” saying that Democrats overall have taken impressive fundraising loads in the last three years.

“There’s one key motivator for Democratic donors, and I think that’s President Donald J. Trump,” Gonzales said. He thinks a similar phenomenon is driving donors to the opponents of McConnell and Graham, whose seats are not considered toss-up races.

“These are some of the highest-profile members of the Republican Party. Democratic donors are reacting to their dislike of those senators,” Gonzales said, adding that the Democratic spending will likely force the GOP to direct more resources to what had normally been considered safe seats.

“The Republicans can’t just walk away and let Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell get outspent by $30 million,” Gonzales said. “That’s not a position you want to be in, even if the state is trending in your direction.”

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Joe Biden defends Tammy Duckworth amid attacks on her patriotism

Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, was awarded the Purple Heart after she lost her legs in 2004 when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the helicopter she was co-piloting during the Iraq War. She eventually retired from the Illinois Army National Guard as a lieutenant colonel.

“I can’t tell you how I felt today when I heard the President of the United States, Donald Trump, questioning your patriotism,” Biden said to Duckworth during a fundraiser Tuesday night, according to a pool report, though it was actually a statement from the Trump campaign that said Duckworth was using her military service to deflect from other issues.

“I found it virtually disgusting, sickening. I know you can handle yourself. I said, ‘I’m glad I wasn’t standing next to him,’ ” continued Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, adding that “it’s a reflection of the depravity of what’s going on in the White House right now.”

Courtney Parella, deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, told CNN in a statement that “clearly, Joe Biden is confused again,” adding: Perhaps he meant to say that Senator Duckworth’s mischaracterization of the President and her comments to delegitimize American history were disgusting and sickening.”

Parella did not comment on whether Trump himself shares his campaign’s view.

Some conservatives have seized on comments made by Duckworth to CNN over the weekend in which she suggested there should be a “national dialogue” about whether statues of former slave-owning Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should be taken down. Carlson, Fox News’ highest-rated host, pointed to the comments as evidence she is among Democrats who purportedly “hate America” and has called her a “coward,” “fraud” and a “callous hack.” He also characterized her military sacrifice by saying she was “once injured while serving in the Illinois National Guard.”

The Trump campaign on Tuesday echoed that line of attack, though it used less incendiary language in a statement.

“After saying she was open to tearing down statues of George Washington, Tammy Duckworth is now using her military service to deflect from her support for the left-wing campaign to villainize America’s founding,” the campaign said in a statement issued by Veterans For Trump Co-Chair Scott O’Grady and Medal of Honor recipient and retired Army Gen. Patrick Brady. “If she can’t defend George Washington, our first Commander-in-Chief, those of us who still respect our Founding Fathers’ immense sacrifice and think America is worth fighting for will hold her accountable for cowering to the far-left fascists in the Democrat Party.”

Biden’s remarks are especially notable as Duckworth is among the broad tier of those being vetted by the former vice president’s campaign to be his running mate. Biden has said he will choose a woman, and he has been under increased pressure to pick someone of color in light of the recent national debate about race in America.

On Sunday, Duckworth, who is Thai American, passed when asked by CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” whether Biden should pick a Black woman for the position.

“The Biden campaign have their own process that they’re going through. And I’m sure Vice President Biden will pick the right person to be next to him as he digs this country out of the mess that Donald Trump has put us in,” Duckworth said.

Duckworth responded to the Trump campaign’s criticism on Tuesday, tweeting from her US Senate campaign account that “my family fought for our nation’s independence alongside George Washington” and that she was “a proud member” of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

She also tweeted at Trump to “focus on ending #COVID19 & standing up to Putin instead of wasting time trying to distract people from your failures.”

Duckworth has also pushed back on Carlson’s smears, highlighting her physical sacrifices made while serving the country.

“Does @TuckerCarlson want to walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America?” Duckworth tweeted from her Senate account on Monday.

This story has been updated with additional comments from Sen. Tammy Duckworth and the Trump campaign.

CNN’s Oliver Darcy and Chandelis Duster contributed to this report.

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Alexander Vindman to retire from military. His lawyer blames White House ‘campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation’

Vindman has endured a “campaign of bullying, intimidation, and retaliation” spearheaded by the President following his testimony in the impeachment inquiry last year, according to his attorney, Amb. David Pressman.

News of Vindman’s retirement marks the culmination of a months-long saga dating back to his public testimony in November.

In recent weeks, the controversy has centered around allegations that the White House was attempting to block Vindman’s upcoming military promotion to the rank of colonel.

“The President of the United States attempted to force LTC Vindman to choose: Between adhering to the law or pleasing a President. Between honoring his oath or protecting his career. Between protecting his promotion or the promotion of his fellow soldiers,” Pressman said in a statement to CNN.

“These are choices that no one in the United States should confront, especially one who has dedicated his life to serving it,” he added, noting that Vindman “did what the law compelled him to do; and for that he was bullied by the President and his proxies.”

Top Pentagon leaders, including Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, have insisted that Vindman is not being targeted for political reasons, but a source familiar with his decision said military officials have communicated to Vindman that the White House has sought to become involved in the promotion process.

In response, Vindman was told that that there have been discussions within the Department of Defense about sending his name forward on a “list of one” or holding his name back until after the election to avoid impacting the promotions of other service members, the source said.

It is “absurd and frightening” for the White House to be involved in promotions at this level, the source added.

Ultimately, Vindman decided to retire from the military rather than attending the National War College, which was his next planned assignment, after speaking with senior Army officials who made clear that there were forces working against his advancement within the military.

Specifically, Vindman was told by senior Army officials that he would no longer be deployable in his area of expertise, which includes Ukraine, the source familiar with the situation told CNN.

He was also told by senior officers he would need a “rehabilitative assignment” even if he had opted to attend the National War College, an option he had been considering before Wednesday’s announcement, the source added.

In one case, a senior officer quipped about sending him to “man a radar station in Alaska,” the source said.

The White House and Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Impeachment retaliation

Vindman delivered explosive testimony during public impeachment hearings that Trump’s push for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden was “inappropriate” and that he knew “without hesitation” that he had to report it.

Vindman said that he reported his concerns out of a “sense of duty,” and he defended his fellow witnesses from what he described as “reprehensible” attacks.

Testifying in his Army uniform as an active-duty soldier, Vindman invoked his father’s decision to leave the Soviet Union and come to the US, noting that the testimony he was giving would likely get him killed in Russia. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth,” Vindman said in a now well-known line.

But Vindman remained a focal point of Trump’s ire as impeachment proceedings moved to the Senate, facing a wave of unfounded attacks from the President and his allies during the trial portion.

During oral arguments in the Senate trial in late January, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, attacked Vindman in multiple tweets over several hours, going so far as to question the Purple Heart recipient’s patriotism.

Pentagon's vow to protect Vindman against retaliation tested after Blackburn attacks decorated veteran

She also repeated the unfounded claim that Vindman had leaked knowledge of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the whistleblower whose complaint initially prompted the investigation into the President’s conduct in Ukraine.

After he was fired from the NSC in February, an Army spokesperson told CNN that Vindman had been reassigned to the Department of the Army.

The President later defended Vindman’s firing from the National Security Council. Trump complained about news coverage of the firing in a tweet, saying reporting was done “as though I should think only how wonderful he was. Actually, I don’t know him, never spoke to him, or met him (I don’t believe!).”

Democrats called on Esper to protect Vindman

Top military leaders, including Esper, have insisted that Vindman would be protected from retaliation of any kind after he transitioned back to the Pentagon, but some Democratic lawmakers have made it clear they believe that he is still being targeted by the White House.

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois announced last week that she is blocking Senate confirmation of 1,123 senior US Armed Forces promotions until she receives assurances that Vindman’s promotion wouldn’t be blocked.

The initial list of promotions Duckworth is holding up does not include Vindman’s name, as he is included in a later batch.

Duckworth to halt military confirmations until she receives assurance Vindman promotion won't be blocked

Duckworth’s power play, which her office described as “unprecedented in modern history,” takes advantage of unanimous consent procedures in the Senate that are used to efficiently conduct Senate business. Typically, a large batch of non-controversial military promotions, like the ones Duckworth is holding up, would be passed all at once with just a few words exchanged on the floor between Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and whoever is the presiding officer.

But instead of granting consent to pass the promotions, Duckworth objected, meaning McConnell would have to go through the time-consuming process of filing motions to overcome what amounts to her filibuster.

In an interview with CNN last week, Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton said he believed Vindman, who worked under him at the NSC, deserved to be promoted based on what he observed during his time in the administration.

“Based on not just his service, but his twin brother’s service at the NSC, both of whom were pushed out of their assignments early, I think they certainly deserve promotion based on what I saw,” Bolton said to CNN’s Jake Tapper while promoting his new book “In the Room Where it Happened.”

“They shouldn’t be discriminated against. I hope there’s nobody in the White House who’s holding this up or putting bureaucratic obstacles in the way,” he added. “I think this is something, this kind of corruption of this promotion process, unfortunately, typical of a number of things that have happened in the administration, I think it’s a bad signal to all of our military.”

CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.

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Refusal to wear mask feels like ‘slap in the face,’ nurses say

When an employee told a group of 20-somethings they needed face masks to enter his fast-food restaurant, one woman fired off a stream of expletives. “Isn’t this Orange County?” snapped another member of the group. “We don’t have to wear masks!”

The responses came as a shock — but not really a surprise — to Nilu Patel, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at nearby UC Irvine Medical Center, who observed the conflict while waiting for takeout. Healthcare workers suffer these angry encounters daily as they move between treacherous hospital settings and their communities, where mixed messaging from politicians has muddied common-sense public health precautions.

“Healthcare are workers are scared, but we show up to work every single day,” Patel said. Wearing masks, she said, “is a very small thing to ask.”

Patel administers anesthesia to patients in the operating room, and her husband is a healthcare worker as well. They’ve suffered sleepless nights worrying about how to keep their two young children safe and schooled at home. The small but vocal chorus of people who view face coverings as a violation of their rights makes it all worse, she said.

That resistance to the public health advice didn’t grow in a vacuum. Healthcare workers blame political leadership at all levels, from President Trump on down, for issuing confusing and contradictory messages.

Jewell Harris Jordan, a registered nurse in the labor and delivery department at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, says the public’s refusal to don a face covering in public feels like a “slap in the face.”

(Jewell Harris Jordan)

“Our leaders have not been pushing that this is something really serious,” said Jewell Harris Jordan, a 47-year-old registered nurse at the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center. She’s distraught that some Americans see mandates for face coverings as an infringement upon their rights instead of a show of solidarity with healthcare workers.

“If you come into the hospital and you’re sick, I’m going to take care of you,” Jordan said. “But damn, you would think you would want to try to protect the people that are trying to keep you safe.”

In Orange County, where Patel works, mask orders are particularly controversial. The county’s chief health officer, Dr. Nichole Quick, resigned June 8 after being threatened for requiring residents to wear them in public. Three days later, county officials rescinded the requirement. On June 18, a few days after Patel visited the restaurant, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide mask mandate.

Meanwhile, cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in Orange County.

The county’s flip-flop illustrates the national conflict over masks. When the coronavirus outbreak emerged in February, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discouraged the public from buying masks, which were needed by health care workers. It wasn’t until April that federal officials began advising most everyone to wear cloth face coverings in public.

One recent study showed that masks can reduce the risk of coronavirus infection, especially in combination with physical distancing. Another study linked policies in 15 states and Washington, D.C., mandating community use of face coverings with a decline in the daily COVID-19 growth rate and estimated that as many as 450,000 cases had been prevented as of May 22.

But the use of masks has become politicized. Trump’s inconsistency and nonchalance about them sowed doubt in the minds of millions who respect him, said Jordan, the Oakland nurse. That has led to a “very disheartening and really disrespectful” rejection of masks.

“They truly should have just made masks mandatory throughout the country, period,” Jordan said. Out of fear of infecting her family with the virus, she hasn’t flown to see her mother or two adult children on the East Coast during the pandemic, she said.

But a mandate doesn’t necessarily mean authorities have the ability or will to enforce it. In California, where the governor left enforcement up to local governments, some sheriff’s departments have said it would be inappropriate to penalize mask violations. This has prompted some healthcare workers to make personal appeals to the public.

After the Fresno County Sheriff-Coroner’s Office announced it didn’t have the resources to enforce Newsom’s mandate, Amy Arlund, a 45-year-old nurse at the COVID unit at the Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center, took to her Facebook account to plead with friends and family about the need to wear masks.

Registered nurse Amy Arlund

Amy Arlund, a registered nurse at Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center’s dedicated COVID-19 unit, lives in a separate zone of her house to protect the rest of her family from potential exposure to the coronavirus.

(Amy Arlund)

“If I’m wrong, you wore a silly mask and you didn’t like it,” she posted on June 23. “If I’m right and you don’t wear a mask, you better pray that all the nurses aren’t already out sick or dead because people chose not to wear a mask. Please tell me my life is worth a LITTLE of your discomfort?”

To protect her family, Arlund lives in a “zone” of her house that no other member may enter. When she interacts with her 9-year-old daughter to help her with school assignments, they each wear masks and sit 3 feet apart.

Every negative interaction about masks stings in the light of her family’s sacrifices, Arlund said. She cites a woman who approached her husband at a local hardware store to say he looked “ridiculous” in the N95 mask he was wearing.

“It’s like mask-shaming, and we’re shaming in the wrong direction,” Arlund said. “He does it to protect you, you cranky hag!”

After seeing a Facebook comment alleging that face masks can cause low oxygen levels, Dr. Megan Hall decided to publish a small experiment.

Hall, a pediatrician at the Conway Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C., wore different kinds of medical masks for five minutes and then took photos of her oxygen saturation levels, as measured by her pulse oximeter. As she predicted, there was no appreciable difference in oxygen levels. She posted the photo collection on June 22, and it quickly went viral.

Dr. Megan Hall showing her oxygen saturation levels with and without masks.

Dr. Megan Hall’s post on Facebook went viral after publishing photos that showed her oxygen saturation levels remained consistent no matter what type of face mask she wore. The pediatrician hopes that the public and officials have a “change of heart” about face coverings.

(Dr. Megan Hall)

“Some of our officials and leaders have not taken the best precautions,” said Hall, who hopes for “a change of heart” about masks among local officials and the public. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has urged residents to wear face coverings in public, but he said a statewide mandate was unenforceable.

In Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has resisted calls for a statewide order on masks despite a massive surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Cynthia Butler, 62, recently asked a young man at the register of a pet store why he wasn’t wearing a mask.

“His tone was more like, this whole mask thing is ridiculous,” said Butler, a registered nurse at Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Port Charlotte.

She didn’t tell him that she had just recovered from a COVID-19 infection contracted at work. The exchange saddened her, but she hasn’t the time to lecture everyone she encounters without a mask — about three-quarters of her community, Butler estimated.

“They may think you’re stepping on their rights,” she said. “It’s not anything I want to get shot over.”

Almendrala writes for Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation and is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Justice Department unearths more notes from Peter Strzok and others in Flynn case

The Justice Department announced that it has unearthed further information related to the FBI’s investigation of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, including more notes taken by fired special agent Peter Strzok.

Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney in the nation’s capital, said Tuesday that the documents handed over to Flynn’s defense team included handwritten notes from Strzok taken at a meeting on Jan. 25, 2017; notes from former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Tashina Gauhar at the same meeting; an internal DOJ document dated Jan. 30, 2017; and handwritten notes from then-acting Attorney General Dana Boente which were dated March 30, 2017. The notes remain sealed by the court.

Attorney General William Barr assigned Jeffrey Jensen, the U.S. attorney for Eastern Missouri, to review the Flynn case earlier this year, and the federal prosecutor has found a number of documents that appear to have been concealed from Flynn’s defense team.

Notes from Strzok released in late June show former Vice President Joe Biden raised the Logan Act during an early January 2017 Oval Office meeting about Flynn.

Documents declassified this year indicate that Strzok abruptly stopped the FBI from closing its investigation into Flynn in early January 2017 at the insistence of the FBI’s “seventh floor” after the bureau had uncovered “no derogatory information” on Flynn. Emails showed Strzok, along with FBI lawyer Lisa Page and several others, sought to continue investigating Flynn, even considering the Logan Act.

Notes from the FBI’s head of counterintelligence, Bill Priestap, show him asking, “What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”

Flynn, 61, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to FBI investigators, including Strzok, about his December 2016 conversations with a Russian envoy, but Flynn now claims he was set up by the FBI. The Justice Department is seeking to drop the charges after a trove of information concealed from the defense was unearthed in recent months. The appeals court ordered Judge Emmet Sullivan to grant the dismissal.

An email from March 2017 by Gauhar and notes taken by her in May 2017 are mentioned a number of times in special counsel Robert Mueller’s lengthy 2019 report. Mueller found that the Russians interfered in the 2016 election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion,” but he “did not establish” any criminal conspiracy between Trump and Russia.

Boente, who resigned from his position as the FBI’s general counsel effective at the end of June after a decadeslong career in the Justice Department, was the last-remaining active government official who signed off on one of the flawed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants targeting onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Strzok, Gauhar, and Boente are among the key players in the Russia investigation whom Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, named as possible targets for a subpoena as part of his panel’s inquiry into the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane counterintelligence investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

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Progressives ready to rebel against Biden if he “compromises” with the GOP

On Friday, during an online speech he gave to the National Education Association, Joe Biden committed what some on the left consider an unforgivable sin. He reminded everyone that he’s spent his career in Congress finding ways to work with people on both sides of the aisle. “’I’ve been able to bring Democrats and Republicans together in the United States Congress to pass big things, to deal with big issues,” Biden said. He then capped off that moment of inclusiveness by saying, “Compromise is not a dirty word.”

Well, that’s not what the more progressive branch of the Democratic Party is shopping for these days. That’s particularly true of the supporters of Bernie Sanders, who are still smarting from the Vermont Senator’s back-to-back losses in presidential primary races. Their reaction to Joe’s speech was far from enthusiastic, to say the least. (The Hill)

“Biden is transparently taking a bet to win over a group of anti-Trump Republicans but at the expense of what? Potentially losing some of the largest movements in history?” said progressive activist Nomiki Konst, who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic presidential primary.

She and other progressives also warn it could cost Biden by reducing voter enthusiasm on the left in November.

“His excitement is extremely low and that should always be alarming for candidates. It’s the Hillary Clinton strategy all over again,” she said.

This is yet another example of the hole that Joe Biden dug for himself during the primary. He’s embraced nearly every far-left fantasy of the progressive movement in an effort to win over Sanders’ supporters and try to build some enthusiasm among those who supported Elizabeth Warren and the rest of the socialist crowd. But now the general election is gearing up and he needs to not only generate some excitement with minority voters, but also win back the persuadable moderates who migrated over to Trump’s camp in 2016.

That’s not a balancing act. It’s a contradiction in terms. As any successful politician will tell you, no one can be all things to all people, though most of them try to manage the feat. The problem for Biden is that there are simply too many things from the primary race lurking in his record. At various points, he has endorsed vast expansions to Medicaid, gun bans, abortion on demand and more. Back in April, a coalition of progressive youth groups issued a list of demands for Joe Biden if he wanted their support and he quickly toed the line.

The groups call on Biden to endorse policy initiatives like “Medicare for All,” canceling all student debt, taxing wealth and the Green New Deal framework of a fully clean energy economy by 2030. They make process demands like eliminating the legislative filibuster and adding seats to the Supreme Court. And they include personnel wishes like rejecting Wall Street or other corporate executives for important roles and picking a Homeland Security chief committed to “dismantling ICE and CBP as we know them,” referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

Does any of that sound like “compromise” across the aisle to you? Sooner or later Biden is going to face a reckoning, assuming he can stay awake long enough to address his potential supporters. And that laundry list of promises will be up for renewed scrutiny. The same concerns can’t be applied to his opponent. Say what you will about Donald Trump, but he’s been consistent from day one until the present. And nobody expects him to suddenly turn over a new leaf between now and November.

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Wikipedia Page For Kamala Harris Getting Scrubbed To Remove Potentially Damaging Information

Everyone knows Kamala Harris is on the short list to be Joe Biden’s running mate.

Now something is happening which suggests she might be the final choice.

Her Wikipedia page is apparently being heavily scrubbed for anything that could potentially be used against her.

Breitbart reports:

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Wikipedia Editors Sanitize the Page of Potential Biden VP Kamala Harris

An article in the Intercept last week reported that a Wikipedia editor was scrubbing the page of former Democratic Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), considered a prominent member of the shortlist to be Joe Biden’s Vice Presidental pick. The piece mentioned changes such as removing a past campaign finance scandal and Harris’ record as a hard-line prosecutor.

Changes not mentioned include removals of the alleged role nepotism played in her early political career and significant favorable additions about Harris.

Other Wikipedia editors have begun working to undo the changes made to the Harris page, although many details remain missing. On Twitter, the Wikipedia editor responsible for most removals was identified as Bao Nguyen, a former volunteer organizer for the Harris campaign.

Similarly, editors previously created pages for fellow Presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang without disclosing their connections to them.

The Intercept article by Aida Chavez notes that in 2016, editors had been heavily involved in contributing to the article on Tim Kaine prior to him being announced as Hillary Clinton’s Vice Presidential pick.

Doesn’t this seem to suggest she will be picked by Biden?

They’re trying to hide her record.

What does that tell you?

Cross posted from American Lookout.