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Dem Senator Accused of Sexism

Democratic senator Brian Schatz (Hawaii) was accused of sexism Tuesday morning after interrupting a female witness in a Senate subcommittee hearing.

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, senior editor at Reason magazine, said Schatz treated male witnesses at the hearing differently than Internet Association deputy general counsel Elizabeth Banker. The senator berated Banker for attempting to give a longer answer to his “yes-or-no question.” Schatz allowed former SEC chairman Christopher Cox more than a minute to answer the same question.

“Chris Cox provides similarly long and nuanced answer. Sen. [Schatz] does not snap at Chris Cox—like he did with Elizabeth Banker just a moment ago—for not giving a yes or no answer, lets him go on as long as he likes,” Brown tweeted.

The Senate subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet convened virtually on Tuesday to discuss the responsibility of online platforms to moderate content posted on their sites. Schatz asked the panel of witnesses whether online platforms should be required to remove content that has been found to be illegal.

The House Judiciary Committee and Antitrust subcommittee is scheduled to hold hearings Wednesday on the “dominance” of large technology companies. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai are expected to testify.

Alex Nester is an intern at the Washington Free Beacon and will begin a fellowship with The Public Interest in September. She graduated from Hillsdale College this spring with a bachelor of arts in economics.

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Republicans revolt against GOP’s initial stimulus plan

The revolt, which spans the ideological spectrum from conservatives to moderates in the conference, represents the latest challenge for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he seeks to salvage the GOP’s opening bid and begin negotiations with Democrats to get a deal before the August recess.

“It’s a mistake,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, said of the newest proposal. “I think we should be focused on reopening the economy not simply shoveling trillions of dollars out of Washington. I think this bill is the wrong approach.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, declared Tuesday “there are a hundred problems with the plan.”

In particular, senators blasted the administration for including $1.75 billion in the bill to build a new FBI building.

Republicans pushed administration officials Tuesday during their private lunch as to why the money was included in the bill, which members argued wasn’t even related to coronavirus.

“I just don’t understand it. How is it tied to coronavirus? I never understood why we were giving money to the Kennedy Center or National Endowment for the Arts. During a pandemic, let’s concentrate on solving the problem,” Sen. Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida said.

“I don’t know why it’s in there either,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said.

McConnell himself said he opposed the inclusion of the FBI funds in the proposal, which GOP leadership unveiled on Monday. McConnell responded to reporters Tuesday by saying that he’s against “non-germane” provisions in the next stimulus and hopes that anything not directly related to Covid will be stripped out.

“Let me speak for myself, I am opposed to non-germane amendments, whether it’s funding for the FBI building or for example whether in the House bill it’s a tax cut for high income earners in blue states or other non-germane amendments in the House bill like marijuana studies or aid to illegal immigrants,” he said.

Asked about pushback from Senate Republicans to the proposal, McConnell acknowledged divisions within his conference, telling reporters at a post-lunch presser Tuesday “look, I think it’s stating the obvious that I have members who are all over the line on this.”

The reaction has been building for months. In most of May and June, the discussions between Republicans over how to tackle another stimulus bill raged behind closed doors. Republicans senators debated among themselves whether to give states and localities more flexibility in how they used stimulus dollars and whether to scale down enhanced unemployment benefits that were included in the CARES Act in the spring. But now with a proposal on paper, members aren’t holding back.

“I don’t want to see any new authorization of money,” Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, said.

GOP Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana told reporters that he didn’t think he could support the bill in its current form.

“In my opinion, we need to get back to the Trump economy not the federal government trying to replace it,” Braun said.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said he’s “studying” the proposal, but has problems with a “number” of provisions.

“I’ll wait and see what the final product looks like, but I’m pretty skeptical about the way it seems to be shaping up,” Toomey said.

Here are the differences between the Democratic and Republican stimulus bills

And it is not just budget hawks voicing their frustrations. With half a dozen Republicans up for reelection in tough races from Maine to Iowa, Republicans on the ballot argue that changes needed to be made to the GOP’s opening bid if they are going to back it.

“We’ve got a lot of negotiating to do,” Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina up for reelection, told reporters. “There’s a number of things we’re negotiating.”

The disagreements complicate the negotiating position for Republican leaders and the White House as Democrats view the schism as an opportunity to extract more concessions from the GOP in upcoming negotiations.

“Not exactly our strongest hand,” one Republican senator put it.

The GOP plan, which was unveiled by a series of Republican chairmen and members of leadership on the Senate floor Monday night, includes new money for schools, liability protections for hospitals, restaurants and businesses and another round of direct stimulus payments to individuals and families. But disagreements over how to structure additional unemployment benefits and the inclusion of money for a new FBI building at the Trump administration’s behest has further eroded GOP support.

“It’s a starting point,” Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, said of the bill.

Several Republicans also expressed frustration that there was no new money for state and local governments included in the initial bill. That’s been a top priority for Democrats and GOP senators from states that have seen their budgets shrink as a result of shuttered businesses and declining sales tax revenues.

Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said he wished there was more money for state and local governments even as he recognized the GOP bill is the beginning of negotiations, not the end.

“Obviously, I’ve advocated for more state and local and I think at the end of the day we will,” Cassidy said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, questioned whether there was enough funding for education in the bill. The GOP proposal included $105 billion for schools with $70 billion appropriated to go directly to K-12 education.

“Is anything enough money at this point?” she asked.

For now, it’s not clear how McConnell will bridge the divide. In order to pass anything and get legislation signed into law, McConnell will need Democratic votes. To get them, he’ll have to make changes that will lose him conservatives who are already balking at the $1 trillion price tag.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows have already began their preliminary conversations with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Those talks comes as Republican senators are uneasy about how Meadows and Mnuchin have negotiated with Democrats in the past.

“I think it is a lot better if it is members dealing with members, but this seems to be the pattern we are in,” one Republican senator said on the condition of background in order to freely discuss the contours of the negotiations. “I would rather it was Republican senators dealing with Democrats.”

CNN’s Manu Raju, Clare Foran and Phil Mattingly contributed to this report.

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Barr Reveals Separate Probe Into Flynn Unmasking, But Sources Worry Americans Will Be Left In The Dark If Investigations Are Kept Secret Until After Election

Department of Justice Attorney General William Barr revealed during Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing that there is a separate investigation into the questionable unmasking of former national security advisor Michael Flynn being headed by an outside U.S. Attorney. This investigation is separate but in conjunction with another investigation being headed by U.S. Attorney John Durham into the origination of the FBI’s now-debunked case that President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

But sources familiar and vested in Barr’s investigation say there is serious concern as to whether or not the Justice Department can accomplish a full investigation into the Flynn unmasking and the origin of the FBI’s probe into before the November election. Durham’s investigation has been ongoing for more than a year and he has yet to indict any suspects or issue a full report.

Barr did not state whether or not the results of those investigations would be released prior to the November elections but did reiterate to lawmakers that he was aware of the Justice Department rules to not release information that may interfere in an election.

“The American people deserve the truth and there should be no games here, what-so-ever,” said a former senior Intelligence official, who is aware of the ongoing circumstances with the issues being investigated. “Democrats, as well as some Rhino anti-Trump Republicans will push against any report being published before November but that is unacceptable. The Trump administration has spent four years being tarnished and the American people divided.”

“People need the truth and they need it now,” stated the official, who spoke on background due to the continued nature of their work.

Barr told lawmakers Tuesday that with regard to Flynn, he appointed U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas John Bash. He wants Bash to investigate the numerous unmasking requests made by former Obama administration officials into Flynn.

The retired three star general’s name and the contents of a top secret conversations in December, 2016 with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak were leaked to The Washington Post. Columnist David Ignatius said in his column that multiple U.S. officials had verified that Flynn had spoken to Kislyak and that those conversations regarded then sanctions the Obama administration had taken on Russia.

Barr said that Bash’s probe of the Flynn leak will be independent of the criminal probe being conducted by Durham.

“A number of people, including former special agent (Peter) Strzok and (Joe) Pientka have been interviewed by Durham,” said a source familiar with with Durham’s ongoing probe. “The investigation is certain to bring indictments but how many and who is certainly not being verified by anyone inside the DOJ but If I was (Former FBI Director James) Comey I’d be very concerned.”

Barr told the panel of lawmakers about Bash after being asked by ranking Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan.

Under questioning, Barr said he’s “asked another U.S. attorney to look into the issue of unmasking because of the high number of unmaskings and some that do not readily appear in the line of normal business.”

The numerous unmaskings conducted by the Obama administration were first reported by this reporter and journalist John Solomon three years ago for then Circa News, with Sinclair Broadcast Group.

For example, as explained in a column in 2017 by Fox News contributor and prosecutor Andrew McCarthy FISA “surveillance is more controversial than criminal surveillance because the government does not have to show probable cause of a crime — and when the targets are foreigners outside the U.S., the government does not have to make any showing; it may target if it has a legitimate foreign-intelligence purpose, which is really not much of a hurdle at all.”

He noted that under the “Obama administration’s monitoring of Trump-campaign officials, FISA section 702 provides some privacy protection for Americans: The FISA court orders “minimization” procedures, which require any incidentally intercepted American’s identity to be “masked.” That is, the NSA must sanitize the raw data by concealing the identity of the American. Only the “masked” version of the communication is provided to other U.S. intelligence agencies for purposes of generating reports and analyses. As I have previously explained, however, this system relies on the good faith of government officials in respecting privacy: There are gaping loopholes that permit American identities to be unmasked if, for example, the NSA or some other intelligence official decides doing so is necessary to understand the intelligence value of the communication.”

These loopholes, however, and the then loosening of rules under the Obama administration to access the names of private communications through warrants – where American names were meant to be minimized – produced a dangerous access to intelligence that violated the Fourth Amendment. It was an issue that caused the FISA court to chide the Obama administration for the unlawful surveillance.

But the issue would have been buried if it weren’t for ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes, R-CA, who at the time was the chairman and opened a years long investigation into the issue. He was the first to openly question and investigate the unmasking requests, which he noted at the time were extremely unusual requests and not common practice in any administration.

Nunes recently told Fox News that Republicans have “been running our own investigation, House Republicans have, for three and a half years and we’ve made our own criminal referrals.” Nunes also noted that very few media outlets investigated the issue or addressed the malfeasance with Obama DOJ or the issues that led to the hundreds of unmaskings.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the committee, went after Barr during the hearing saying he “aided and abetted the worst failings” of Trump.

Barr told Nadler that he was not and that he was “independent” of Trump.

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‘Since When Is It OK To Burn Down a Federal Court?’

Democrats might not be so anxious to talk to Bill Barr for a while.

The attorney general faced down hours of pontificating liberals on Tuesday, stolidly slapping back efforts to smear both his own performance and the Trump administration while repeatedly taking the fight to Democrats intent on trying to put him on the defensive.

And when he was offered the chance to do a little pontificating of his own, he made the most of it.

The House Judiciary Committee hearing was chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, a viciously vindictive man whose history of personal and professional clashes with now-President Donald Trump goes back decades. (As The Washington Post reported, they first butted heads over a Trump real estate project in Manhattan in 1985.)

For the most part, the day was made up of a series of open attacks by Democratic lawmakers eager to score points with an avidly watching Twitter audience, but Barr stayed largely on the offensive.

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For instance, Nadler tried to accuse Barr of orchestrating events like the deployment of federal agents to the United States courthouse in Portland, Oregon, just to arouse Trump’s political base, according to The Daily Wire.

But when Nadler turned a question over to Republican Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio, Barr took it to the Democrats — and their street thugs rioting in American cities — by asking questions every sane American can relate to.

Do you think Attorney General Barr embarrassed Democrats with his Capitol Hill appearance?

Chabot set Barr up with a softball lob, asking the attorney general if it’s the Trump administration’s responsibility “to see that federal laws are upheld, and to see that federal property is secure and safe and protected. Is that correct?”

In his response, Barr noted that the federal government is responsible for enforcing federal law throughout the country – “every square foot of the country,” in fact. But then he got to the part about federal property, and that’s where the rubber hit the road.

Calling U.S. courthouses “the heart of federal law,” he said, “we have the obligation to protect federal courts, and U.S. Marshals specifically have been given that obligation.”

Anyone with even passing knowledge of current events knows that one particular piece of federal property, the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, has been under nightly siege by anarchists for going on two months now.

Trump’s decision to send federal agents to protect the courthouse in early July has become a flashpoint for liberal lawmakers who accuse him of fomenting unrest (apparently, they’re hoping Americans forget there was rioting before the federal agents were dispatched).

RELATED: Jordan Forces Reality Check for Dems, Shows Portland Violence at Barr Hearing

“Federal courts are under attack,” Barr said. “Since when is it OK to try to burn down a federal court?”

Apparently realizing that the events in the Northwest might be too difficult for some of his Democratic listeners to comprehend, Barr brought the example closer to the Capitol — the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse, home of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

“If someone went down the street to the Prettyman court here, that beautiful courthouse we have right at the bottom of the hill, and started breaking windows and firing industrial-grade fireworks in to start a fire, threw kerosene balloons and start fires in the court, is that OK?”

His voice rose as his glance seemed to take in the Democrats on the panel.

“Is that OK, now?”

“No,” he answered his own question. “The U.S. Marshals have a duty to stop that and defend the courthouse, and that’s what we are doing in Portland.”

Only a political party that allies itself with the kind of trash that’s staging nightly violence in Portland these days could take exception to Barr’s response.

But Barr’s ability to give unflinching responses like that is probably why Judiciary Committee Democrats spent more time enjoying the sound of their own voices making accusatory statements than letting the attorney general of the United States address the American people.

If nothing else, since being confirmed in February 2019 to his second stint as attorney general, Barr has proven he’s not afraid of fighting back when Democrats go on the attack. His performance on Tuesday was no exception as Democrats repeatedly interrupted his answers in an attempt to score their own political points.

And Twitter users noticed.

That last one puts it perfectly.

“Muzzling their opponent” is the one thing Democrats have become adept at during the Trump years, but when it comes to William Barr, that strategy is a dismal failure.

Crazed and senseless as Democrats sometimes seem, there isn’t one in elected office who’s likely to try to stand up and explain to American voters why it’s OK for the proletariat of Portland to continually attack and try to destroy a federal courthouse paid for American taxpayers dollars, forcing it to be protected by federal agents likewise paid for by taxpayer dollars.

In the Twitter world, liberals appear to be going crazy claiming victory over Barr.

But Democrats who were actually there have to know better.

After this performance, they might not be so anxious to call the attorney general back to Capitol Hill.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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Barr rejects Democrat’s objection over past campaign donations during hearing

Attorney General William Barr defended his past political donations during congressional testimony on Tuesday.

“Are you surprised I’m a Republican?” Barr responded when pressed by Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon on political donations he and his wife made to Republican candidates over the years, which Scanlon said total over $700,000.

Scanlon was referring to a comment Barr made several years ago that “prosecutors who make political contributions are identifying fairly strongly with a political party” in response to reports about political donations made by the Mueller team.

Barr said the comment was directed at career prosecutors and implied he hasn’t tried to hide the fact he votes Republican.

Barr’s testimony during the House Judiciary Committee was often contentious, and the attorney general was frequently interrupted shortly after being asked a question by Democratic members, who often justified the interruption by saying they were “reclaiming” their time.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had a hearing where the witness wasn’t allowed to respond to points made, questions asked, and attacks made,” ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan said. “Not just in this hearing, not just in this committee, but in every committee I’ve been on. Particularly when you think about the fact that we have the attorney general of the United States here.”

“I want the attorney general to be able to have enough time to respond to accusations and questions asked him, and you guys not cut him off.”

House Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, who earlier said, “Shame on you,” to Barr, called Jordan’s complaint “irrelevant.”

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Massive National Teachers Union Threatens Strike If It Doesn’t Get Its Way on School Reopening

The president of the American Federation of Teachers said that “nothing is off the table” — including a labor strike — when it comes to ensuring its demands are met regarding the reopening of the nation’s schools.

“Just as we have done with our healthcare workers, we will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators,” Randi Weingarten, president of the nation’s second-largest teachers union, said Tuesday, according to an ATF news release.

“But if the authorities don’t get it right, and they don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, nothing is off the table — not advocacy or protests, negotiations, grievances or lawsuits, or, if necessary as a last resort, safety strikes.”

Weingarten made the remarks during a keynote speech at the union’s biennial convention.

She also unveiled a resolution passed by the AFT’s executive council that said the organization would back “safety strikes as a last resort” in the event of “unsafe and unsound plans or the faulty implementation of plans” to reopen schools.

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The resolution outlined six standards for schools to meet in order to reopen, including effective surveillance of COVID-19 in the area.

The district and schools also must have developed and funded proper safeguards such as maintaining 6 feet apart, face coverings and “well-stocked” hand-washing stations.

The resolution blamed what it called the Trump administration’s “willful denial and lack of national planning” for the virus’ rampage across the United States and specifically called out President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“Before the virus’ resurgence, and before Trump’s and DeVos’ reckless ‘open or else’ threats, 76 percent of AFT members said they were comfortable returning to school buildings if the proper safeguards were in place,” Weingarten said.

Do you think schools should reopen for in-person instruction in the fall?

“Now they’re afraid and angry. Many are quitting, retiring or writing their wills. Parents are afraid and angry, too.”

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is expected to discuss the reopening of schools during an AFT town hall meeting with Weingarten on Tuesday evening, the union said on its website.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are among those who have spoken out in favor of reopening schools in the fall.

Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report in which it said it “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

“The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020,” the pediatricians said. “Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often results in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.

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“This, in turn, places children and adolescents at considerable risk of morbidity and, in some cases, mortality. Beyond the educational impact and social impact of school closures, there has been substantial impact on food security and physical activity for children and families.”

The AFT president’s speech comes while Democrats and Republicans are debating the next coronavirus relief bill.

Republicans in the Senate have proposed allocating $105 billion for states to use to support their schools, The New York Times reported.

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said she will push for over $100 billion in education relief in the next bill.

Weingarten said the funds proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were “inadequate given the expenses schools will face to reopen safely.”

“It also falls dramatically short by ignoring what schools actually need to reopen safely and, instead, prioritizes the president’s political agenda, tying the funding to in-person instruction and pushing for private school vouchers,” she said.

Weingarten added that the resolution does not give protection to people on the frontlines of the coronavirus fight.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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William Barr Shows Contempt for Congress in House Judiciary Committee Testimony

Matt McClain Getty Images

Sheltering in place has required me to “cover” the Congress via the blessing that is C-SPAN, and Tuesday was a bonanza. At the same time that Bill Barr was firing up the gaslight in front of the House Judiciary Committee, the House Committee on Natural Resources was drilling down into the tactics used back in June to clear Lafayette Park so that the president* could walk to St. John’s Church to be photographed holding a Bible upside down. It was in this regard that I had what is perhaps the C-SPAN Moment of my lifetime.

I was watching with grim fascination as, in his capacity as a member of the HJC, Rep. Louie Gohmert bathed Barr with his golden hayseed tongue while running down what sounded like the program log for Hannity over the past three years.

Is Bruce Ohr still working for the FBI?…We have heard so much information about his being the go-between between the DNC, the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, Christopher Steele, the Russian propaganda in his dossier, and I know Kleinsmith, Christopher Wray indicated he had been given the chance to resign, get a better job. I’m wondering how long Bruce or will be staying where he is. It is incredible to me he is still there.

Shortly thereafter, Barr asked for a short recess and was granted it. So I thought I’d switch over to the NRC hearing, where Adam DeMarco, a major in the D.C. National Guard, was testifying about the special-effects show that preceded the president*’s photo op, and how DeMarco thought that comported for what he’d signed up to do when he went to West Point and began his military career. Basically, DeMarco told the committee that the U.S. Park Police’s performance didn’t comport with anything DeMarco ever learned. From his opening statement:

Members of the Committee, the events I witnessed at Lafayette Square on the evening of June 1 were deeply disturbing to me, and to fellow National Guardsmen. Having served in a combat zone, and understanding how to assess threat environments, at no time did I feel threatened by the protestors or assess them to be violent. In addition, considering the principles of proportionality of force and the fundamental strategy of graduated responses specific to civil disturbance operations, it was my observation that the use of force against demonstrators in the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation of the use of force. From my observation, those demonstrators – our fellow American citizens — were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights. Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.

This sounded interesting, so I flipped on over just in time to see DeMarco questioned by…Louie Gohmert, who also is a member of the NRC. Alas, as Padishah Emperor of the Crazy People, Gohmert did not get appreciably smarter between hearing rooms. Nor did his natural gift for smarmy passive-aggression improve measurably. Gohmert basically tried to get DeMarco to hang the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff out to dry on charges of sedition. DeMarco had testified that the Guard was in Lafayette Park to protect the First Amendment rights of the demonstrators and that those orders had come from General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. This lit the ever-sputtering fuse of the Gohmert brain.

Oh, yeah, that is the same chairman of the Joint Chiefs that went out and criticized the President of the United States. This is a different military than the one I served in. Because when I was in the army, at Fort Benning, commanders constantly reminded us that, look, everybody knows that President Carter is doing terrible damage to the military but if anyone criticizes their commander-in-chief anywhere but very privately, they’ll either get an article 15 or they’ll be court-martialed. So this is a new military I’m finding where the chair of the Joint Chiefs feel it is perfectly okay to demean his commander-in-chief, and then you felt the need to come out and testify differently from what we have heard from people within the administration and others that were out there. So I’m trying to get used to this new military where you don’t really feel an obligation to answer to the civilian elected commander-in-chief.

(I appreciate the three-rail shot in there by which Gohmert goes out of his way to dig up an ancient slander against Jimmy Carter, who has not been President of the United States for almost 40 years. The adherence to the modern conservative catechism remains inviolate.)

united states   july 28 adam d demarco, major district of columbia national guard, testifies during the house natural resources committee hearing on unanswered questions about the us park police's june 1 attack on peaceful protesters at lafayette square on tuesday, july 28, 2020 photo by bill clarkcq roll call, inc via getty images

Demarco testified that there was no justification for the actions taken against protesters in Lafayette Park.

Bill ClarkGetty Images

The day, admittedly, was something of a farce, and not just because Louie Gohmert had speaking roles in both productions, although that helped provide some essential burlesque. The Barr hearing clearly was the main event, and it ran pretty much the way you knew it would. The Democratic majority on the Judiciary Committee did what it could, but generally did it badly. (Most of them should sit down and take a seminar from rookies Katie Porter and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on how to maximize their five minutes of questioning time.) Barr fudged and fumed and stonewalled, when he wasn’t acting as a spokesman for the president*’s re-election campaign. (He even blamed the Obama administration for this administration’s bungling of the pandemic. He also insisted the Russia investigation was a hoax.)

Nevertheless, Barr was thrown back on the defensive regarding the DOJ’s meddling in the sentencing of Roger Stone. He tried to run the riff that, as a well-known humanitarian, he’d made the decision because he didn’t want the elderly ratfcker thrown in the clink for eight years. Several Democratic legislators obviously found the evidence for this…lacking. Rep. Eric Swalwell, however, decided to make a meal of it, and of Barr.

SWALWELL: Mr. Barr, Americans from both parties are concerned that there are two systems, one for Mr. Trump and his cronies and another for the rest of us. But that can only happen if you enable it. At your confirmation hearing, you are asked, do you believe a president could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise not to incriminate him? And you said that would be a crime. You are asked, could a president issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise to not incriminate him? He responded, no, that would be a crime. Correct?

BARR: Yes, I said that.

SWALWELL: Are you investigating Donald Trump for commuting the prison sentence of longtime friend and political advisor Roger Stone?

BARR: No.

SWALWELL: Why not?

BARR: Why should I?

SWALWELL: He was convicted on seven counts during the Russian investigation, and he lied. Why would he like? It was said he lied because the truth look bad for Donald Trump not give — in written answers, that he talked to Roger Stone during a Russian influence operation. There is evidence that Trump and Stone did talk during that time. You would agree that it is a federal crime to lie under oath, right?

BARR: Yes.

SWALWELL: Donald Trump lied to the investigators, would you agree was a crime, Donald Trump would be in the position to expose the law. Donald Trump said Roger Stone had shown guts on twitter by not testifying against him.

BARR: I am not aware of that.

SWALWELL: Do you read the president’s tweets?

BARR: No.

SWALWELL: They say a lot, and I think you should start reading them. He said Roger Stone had guts. This that I had 29 or 30 conversations with Trump during the campaign I was under enormous rush her to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably, but I did not. The prosecutors wanted me to play Judas, but I did not. Are you familiar with that?

BARR: Actually, I am not.

That was the moment of the afternoon. The only other story of note was the smug contempt that Barr evinced toward the committee’s jurisdiction and that of the Congress as a whole. He was particularly prickly in his responses to the women and the people of color on the committee. He was in every way the face of this administration*: blank, unyielding, and as unresponsive as the head on Easter Island.

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Hubble telescope captures beautiful new image of Saturn in stunningly clear detail

It’s summertime on Saturn, and rarely have Earthlings gotten to see such a clear view of it. The Hubble Space Telescope recently captured a new image of the planet, which shows its rings in stunningly clear detail. 

NASA called Saturn the “lord of the rings” in its recent announcement about the new image, which was taken on July 4. At the time, the planet was 839 million miles from Earth — visible as just a spot of bright light with the naked eye.

The photo was taken as part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy project, which is helping scientists study our solar system’s gas giants. Astronomers are eager to track shifting weather patterns and storms on Saturn in order to potentially understand its evolution. 

The image highlights summertime in the planet’s northern hemisphere, NASA said. Not only is it stunning, but it captures important details of the planet’s shifting weather.

Visible are a number of small atmospheric storms, as well as the bands’ changing color from year to year. 

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of Saturn on July 4, 2020. 

NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), and the OPAL Team


The reddish haze that can be seen over the northern hemisphere may be due to increased heat from the sun that comes during the summer. The heat may be affecting circulation or ice in the atmosphere, or the sunlight may be affecting the production of photochemical haze, NASA said.

“It’s amazing that even over a few years, we’re seeing seasonal changes on Saturn,” said lead investigator Amy Simon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Alternatively, the blue hue that can be seen at the South Pole of the planet — just barely visible — highlights how Saturn changes during the winter. 

Mimas (right) and Enceladus, two of Saturn’s 82 moons, are also clearly visible in the image. NASA has previously speculated that Enceladus, which is the dot at the bottom of the image, could support life. 

Also visible in crisp detail are the planet’s famous icy rings. 

How and when the rings formed remains a mystery. One theory suggests they are as old as the planet itself, just over 4 billion years. However, the brightness of the rings suggests they could have formed much more recently, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. 

The Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier this year. Its successor, the powerful James Webb Space Telescope, is scheduled to launch on March 30, 2021, if the coronavirus pandemic does not delay it.