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Why would anybody vote for anybody in the ‘burn it all down’ Republican Party?

My friend David French, one of the most admirable voices in America today, argues that conservatives need not vote against Republican senate candidates in order to send a message about Trumpism.

I disagree.

He writes, “A rage, fury, and a ‘burn it all down’ mentality is one of the maladies that brought us to the present moment.”

This assumes that the reason some plan to evict Republican senators is simply a matter of anger. But voting against a candidate or even a whole party is not nihilism. It’s the legal, Constitutional way to express approval or disapproval. The current Republican Party has chosen to become the burn-it-all-down party. The most demoralizing aspect of the past four years has not been that a boob conman was elected president, but that one of the two great political parties surrendered to him utterly.

David suggests that voting against Republican senators ignores that they had bad choices.

It’s certainly true that Republicans perceived their options to be limited. If they speak up, they say, they will flush their careers down the drain. Look at what happened to Jeff Flake, Mark Sanford and Bob Corker!

But this overstates things. A number of Republicans have stood up to Trump and maintained their electoral viability — especially when they challenged him on matters in which he has shown little interest, namely public policy. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, for example, voted against the president’s USMCA trade agreement and (gasp) wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal explaining his reasoning.

When the president abruptly announced, following a phone call with Turkish leader Recep Erdogan, that he was withdrawing American troops forthwith from Syria, a number of Republicans voiced horror. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, said it would lead to a “slaughter.” Sen. Ted Cruz said it would be “DISGRACEFUL.” Rep. Liz Cheney called it a “catastrophic mistake that puts our gains against ISIS at risk and threatens America’s national security.” Senators Lindsay Graham, R-South Carolina, Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Marco Rubio, R-Florida, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and others weighed in as well.

When the president suggested lifting sanctions on Russia, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said it would be “horrible” for the United States. And after Gen. James Mattis wrote an op-ed saying that Donald Trump was making a “mockery of the U.S. Constitution,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski said: “I was really thankful. I thought General Mattis’ words were true, and honest and necessary and overdue.”

So, it is possible to speak up about this president and survive. I use that word advisedly, because these Republican officeholders often use words like “kill” or “destroy” or “annihilate” when contemplating what Trump would do to them if they raise their heads too far above the parapet. In fact, all that actually threatened them was the possibility of nasty tweets and the chance that they might lose their seats.

David is right that very few people in any walk of life display courage on anything, though craven Republicans holding House and Senate posts might want to pause from time to time to contemplate the extraordinary valor of protesters in Hong Kong, Iran and Egypt who continue to put their freedom and sometimes their lives at risk by taking to the streets. And should being an elected official really be one’s “life work”?

As noted above, Republicans have criticized the president on policy matters, sometimes even harshly. Where they have shrunk into their shells was on matters that are even more critical to the health of our republic. They have, by their silence, given assent to his cruelty, his assaults on truth, his dangerous flirtations with political violence and his consistent demolition of institutions.

Institutions are like scaffolding. When a society’s institutions are weakened, the whole edifice can come crashing down.

Donald Trump undermined the institution of the free press, urging his followers to disbelieve everything except what came from the leader. He weakened respect for law enforcement and the courts, suggesting that he was the victim of a “deep state” and that “so-called judges” need not be respected. He scorned allies and toadied to dictators. He has cast doubt on the integrity of elections. He ran the executive branch like a gangster, demanding personal loyalty and abusing officials such as the hapless Jeff Sessions, who merely followed ethics rules. He ignored the law to get his way on the border wall. He violated the most sacred norms of a multiethnic society by encouraging racial hatred. He made the U.S. guilty of separating babies from their mothers.

Elected officials, terrified of their own constituents, have cowered and temporized in the face of a truly unprecedented assault on democratic values. They believed that they were powerless and acted accordingly.

Since they were powerless when it counted, perhaps we should make it official?

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

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Movie Couples That Had No Onscreen Chemistry

Alice and Jasper’s relationship in Twilight has me in tears.

We asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us which movie couples had absolutely no chemistry in their films. Here are the results:

1.

Constance Wu and Henry Golding in Crazy Rich Asians


Warner Bros. Pictures

“The leads in Crazy Rich Asians don’t have any chemistry, nor do they seem to be that fleshed out in the script. The supporting actors have better lines and their relationships are more believable.”

joannab14

2.

Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega in Star Wars: The Last Jedi


Disney

“I genuinely did not think there was any chemistry between Kelly (Rose) and John’s (Finn) characters. Not once while watching the film did I think, ‘Yeah, these two will end up together.'”

joep45cede9de

3.

Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman in Thor


Marvel / Paramount Pictures

“Thor and Jane are great characters separately, but they did not work as a couple. Taika knew what he was doing when he broke them up for Thor: Ragnarok.”

teverdean

4.

Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt in Jurassic World


Universal Pictures

“I think Bryce and Chris are both such talented actors, and maybe the direction just wasn’t there, but I didn’t buy their chemistry at all.”

thetimble

5.

Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt in Cast Away


20th Century Fox

“Tom and Helen’s chemistry was so bad, I feel like he must have deliberately stranded himself on that island.”

krman90

6.

Daniel Radcliffe and Bonnie Wright in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Warner Bros. Pictures

“When I read the book, their relationship was so pure and made me so happy, which is why it’s one of my favorites from the series. But when I watched the movies, I was extremely disappointed with how poorly executed it was.”

kaylinmmeister

7.

Reese Witherspoon and Tom Hardy in This Means War


20th Century Fox

“I was so disappointed by Reese’s lack of chemistry with Tom Hardy. Casting Tom may have been to set up Chris Pine’s character as the “better choice” for Reese in the end, but Reese’s lack of any sort of chemistry with Tom made Chris seem like the ‘default’ or ‘fallback’ choice, instead.”

mavmag

8.

Henry Cavill and Amy Adams in Man of Steel


Warner Bros. Pictures

“Henry Cavill and Amy Adams were awful together. They looked as if they couldn’t be less interested in each other, and I damn near fell asleep every time they showed up on screen.”

laurenf5

9.

Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae in The Lovebirds


Netflix

“Kumail Nanjiani looked like he was trying way too hard for the relationship and the connection didn’t seem to be authentic.”

maryjoe13

10.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby


Warner Bros. Pictures

“The lack of chemistry between Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan as Gatsby and Daisy ruined the whole movie for me.”

aljr02

11.

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally…


Columbia Pictures

“I hate to say this, but I have to… Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally are not great together. They don’t seem to click romantically even once in the movie. I love the story, just wish it was with a different cast.”

jenlk94

12.

Freida Pinto and James Franco in Rise of the Planet of the Apes


20th Century Fox

“It was excruciatingly painful to watch James Franco and Freida Pinto have a relationship with absolutely no chemistry.”

mrsnicegirl

13.

Elle Fanning and Justice Smith in All the Bright Places


Netflix

“Elle and Justice had no warmth for each other, and you couldn’t tell that they were playing two characters falling in love. There was no real connection between them — it all seemed a bit forced.”

twigletfluff7671

14.

Chris Evans and Emily VanCamp in Captain America: Civil War


Marvel / Disney

“There wasn’t ANY chemistry between Steve and Sharon! None! Not one bit! It makes no sense that they would have kissed.”

micahs4e696c39f

15.

Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in Aquaman


Warner Bros. Pictures

“The chemistry was so non-existent, even in the supposed ‘romantic’ scene where Momoa and Heard were supposed to be falling in love. It felt forced and I experienced extreme secondhand embarrassment.”

josmit2018

16.

Will Smith and Vivica A. Fox in Independence Day


20th Century Fox

“Vivica A. Fox and Will Smith, who played Steven Hiller and Jasmine Dubrow, had absolutely no chemistry to speak of.”

jackay

17.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land


Lionsgate

“I couldn’t stand Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling together! Even though they were SO amazing in other movies together, it felt like a High School Musical scene in this one.”

alicesimard

18.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in A Star Is Born


Warner Bros. Pictures

“Y’all can get mad all you want, but there was no chemistry at all between Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. I spent the whole movie wondering what these two people were doing together.”

PHM8

19.

Joey King and Jacob Elordi in The Kissing Booth


Netflix

“Noah acted like an older brother to Elle in The Kissing Booth, and it just felt weird and uncomfortable to watch.”

b99isthebest

20.

Amandla Stenberg and K.J. Apa in The Hate U Give


20th Century Fox

“Chris and Starr in The Hate U Give did not work well together. Their relationship in the book was so much better.”

bubbles_04

21.

Ashley Greene and Jackson Rathbone in Twilight


Summit Entertainment

“Alice and Jasper had no connection. It looked like she was dragging her unnecessarily tense child through all the scenes.”

ivyymoon

22.

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger Games


Lionsgate Films

“Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson as Katniss and Peeta felt very forced. Of course, in the beginning for Katniss it was actually forced, but later on when they were really married and had kids, there was still no chemistry.”

s463b03bd4

23.

Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton in 5 Flights Up


Focus World

“Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman played husband and wife, but I swear she visibly flinched every time they had to kiss or show any romance. They definitely didn’t seem like a couple that had been married for so many years.”

keshawna80

24.

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast


Disney

“There was no warmth between Belle and the Beast, even after they began to like each other. Belle was cold, Beast was stubborn, and unlike the cartoon, the ballroom scene was terrible at trying to convey romance.”

colleend9

25.

Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey


Universal Pictures

“Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are both good actors by themselves, but together they were a total mess.”

aaronweeks101

26.

Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer in Call Me by Your Name


Sony Pictures Classics

“Elio and Oliver in Call Me by Your Name had absolutely no chemistry and a really weird, unbalanced relationship.”

momjeanbb

27.

Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton in The Sun Is Also a Star


Warner Bros. Pictures

“There was more passion in the book between Natasha and Daniel. The movie was even a day longer than the actual book, so you would think they would develop more chemistry, but it was all so awkward.”

alvaset

TV and Movies

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The congressional underclass erupts in fury after Gohmert gets Covid-19

Another aide to a House GOP member told of how staff were allowed to work from home for several days when an office colleague was thought to have been exposed. “Even then,” this person said, “many of my colleagues kept working in the office. We were told to report to work as normal even before the test came back negative because the results were taking too long. I was left feeling guilty for teleworking even though I have an underlying health condition.”

An administrative staffer who often visits multiple offices estimated that mask wearing was “nearly universal in Democratic offices” but was “probably under 50 percent” among Republicans.

Masking has become a “political minefield” that creates awkward encounters on occasion, this person recounted: “[S]ome GOP offices ask why you are wearing a mask, which puts our staff in an awkward position — do you say because of the pandemic and risk the office taking that as a political stand? Do you take it off to make them feel better?”

Staffers with limited recourse

Since the House began voting regularly again this summer, dozens, if not hundreds, of offices have reopened in some capacity, many with a skeleton crew but others — particularly GOP members — that have required nearly the entire staff to return to work in person.

And the return of hundreds of staffers has resurfaced a decades-old problem for the Capitol: More than 25 years after the Congressional Accountability Act passed in an attempt to reform the culture on Capitol Hill, it’s still an often brutal, unforgiving place to work.

Part of the problem is the scattershot human resources system spread across the Capitol complex. There is no centralized HR department — each of the 535 lawmakers and senators is his or her own employer, with their own set of office policies and protocols.

Staffers who may be uncomfortable with what’s happening in an office sometimes have limited recourse. For example, if a staffer is uncomfortable with the mask policies in an office, that person can reach out to the Office of Employee Advocacy — which provides free legal counsel to House staffers — or the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights.

But there isn’t some centralized database tracking staffer complaints or concerns, just like there isn’t a singular database to track potential coronavirus infections among the more than 20,000 workers who inhabit the Capitol complex, thousands of staffers and hundreds of lawmakers.

At least 86 Capitol workers have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a House aide familiar with the data. That includes 25 Architect of the Capitol employees, 28 Capitol police officers and 33 people working on the renovation of the Cannon building. But reporting is voluntary and doesn’t include data for House staffers or lawmakers who have tested positive.

Other aides note that overall, there appear to be relatively few coronavirus cases on Capitol Hill, suggesting many offices are indeed following public health guidelines.

Despite the swift move to mandate masks in the House earlier this week, Democratic aides say it’s unlikely Congress will start requiring testing for members, despite calls by some Republicans to do so. Republicans, those Democratic aides say, aren’t being fully truthful about the logistics of implementing a regular testing regime for hundreds of lawmakers and the Capitol staff and aides who would also need to be tested.

Instead, Democrats think the best solution is to fully enforce current policies, including the new mask mandate. If a member refuses to wear a mask on the House floor or in the connected office buildings and brushes off several warnings to do so, it is much more likely he or she will be escorted from the area until complying, according to Democratic aides familiar with the policy.

On the Senate side, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged people to wear masks, though he remains skeptical about the need to require them. Asked about the idea recently by Judy Woodruff of PBS, he said the Senate had experienced “good compliance” without a mandate. Pressed further, he said, “It appears not to be necessary since everybody seems to be doing it.”

Jake Sherman, Sarah Ferris, Heather Caygle and Melanie Zanona contributed to this report.

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Republicans in House, Senate openly challenge Trump’s tweet on delaying election

 A large number of congressional Republicans, including members of House and Senate leadership, openly rejected President Donald Trump’s suggestion Thursday that November’s presidential election should be delayed, a move that the President would have no authority to make because the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for voting.

It was the latest example of the President making incendiary comments on Twitter — and putting Republicans in an awkward spot to deal with the fallout.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and Trump ally, told CNN when asked about the President’s call to delay the election: “I don’t think that’s a particularly good idea.”

Majority Whip Sen. John Thune, a member of Republican leadership, told CNN that there will be an election in November despite the President’s tweet.

“I think that’s probably a statement that gets some press attention, but I doubt it gets any serious traction,” Thune said.

“I think we’ve had elections every November since about 1788, and I expect that will be the case again this year,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell similarly insisted that the election will go on as planned.

“Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally-scheduled election on time. We’ll find a way to do that again this November 3rd,” the majority leader said in an interview with WNKY.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump tweeted, “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

CNN has previously fact checked claims by Trump that there is a distinction between mail-in voting and absentee voting — and experts say those voting systems are essentially the same thing. There is also no widespread fraud in US elections.

The President also does not have the power to change the date of the election. Election Day is set by congressional statute, and most experts agree that it cannot be changed without congressional approval.

Despite the President’s lack of authority, his message provides an opening — long feared by Democrats — that both he and his supporters might refuse to accept the results of the presidential election.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, responded to the President with a tweet of her own quoting Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, that gives Congress the authority to “determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Vote.”

GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois echoed that idea, tweeting, “Reminder: Election dates are set by Congress. And I will oppose any attempts to delay the #2020Election.”

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California dismissed Trump’s call to delay election, but defended the President’s concerns over voting fraud.

“Never in the history of federal elections have we ever not held an election and we should go forward with our election,” McCarthy said, “No way should we ever not hold our election on the day that we have it.”

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who is facing a tough reelection battle in North Carolina, said Thursday: “The election is going to happen in November period.”

“The election is going to be held in November. Absentee ballots in North Carolina are strongly encouraged, as has the President encouraged them. The safe side to a mail-in vote, I hope we get it mostly… Because otherwise they’re gonna undermine the integrity of the election,” he said.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said, “Election fraud is a serious problem we need to stop it and fight it, but no the election should not be delayed.”

GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said of Trump’s tweet, “I wish he hadn’t said that, but it’s not going to change: We are going to have an election in November and people should have confidence in it.”

Senate Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa downplayed the President’s comments, saying, “All I can say is that, it doesn’t matter what one individual in this country says. We still are a country based on the rule of law. And we must follow the law until either the Constitution is changed or until the law is changed.”

Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said in an interview on Fox Business, “No, we’re not going to delay the election,” adding, “We’re going to have the election completed and voting completed by Election Day.”

GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota raised concerns in a tweet that any delay would hurt the legitimacy of the election.

“Moving Election Day would seriously jeopardize the legitimacy of the election. Federal, state and local officials need to continue to work hard to ensure that Americans can vote safely, whether by voting early or on November 3,” he tweeted.

Not every Hill Republican, including some members of leadership, has weighed in on the President’s call or pushed back on the message.

“Not answering any questions,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican also facing voters in a tough race, when asked about Trump’s tweet.

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William Barr is a danger to democracy

Atty. Gen. William Barr left us with a terrifying certainty in the wake of his testimony Tuesday in front of the House Judiciary Committee: Under him, the Department of Justice stands ready to advance any pro-Trump policy, justifying it on the basis of a blinkered, tenuous view of the facts and the law, or maybe just Barr’s personal ideological intuitions.

For all its finger-wagging, the Judiciary Committee is not in a position to constrain the attorney general. There is no real brake on Barr’s conduct short of a Trump loss in November. Or, to adopt Barr’s own unsettling gloss, a Trump loss that is sufficiently “clear” that he and his boss would accept it.

Since the hearing, commentators have seized on a couple of blows that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee — Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) primarily — landed on the attorney general. But there was nothing close to a knockdown and the hard facts remain: The House will not impeach Barr and President Trump will continue to give him full rein.

It’s no secret that the Democrats in Congress (and more than half of the country) view Barr as Mephistopheles — dishonest, partisan, corrupt, even racist. He did nothing Tuesday to try to revise that view; in fact, he seemed indifferent to it.

Norms of evenhandedness, professionalism and especially political disinterest, which traditionally check U.S. attorneys general, do not moderate his conduct. He championed every partisan act his DOJ has taken on the president’s behalf, blandly claiming they reflected the faithful application of the rule of law.

For example, when he defended the highly unusual deployment of federal agents in Portland, Ore., Barr described a “Batman”-like dystopia in which a few U.S. marshals were beset night after night by a marauding horde of uncontrollable professional anarchists. If that were accurate, it would be hard to quibble with sending in the feds.

But the justification dries up immediately if the protests were, as a lot of the reporting on the ground indicates, largely peaceful, and if local law enforcement were capable of defending the Portland federal courthouse and separating lawbreakers from peaceful protestors. (The announcement Wednesday that the Department of Homeland Security’s mystery troops were withdrawing suggests the argument for the invasion was tenuous all along.)

Or consider Barr’s legally tortured defense of the president’s memo attempting to exclude immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally from the 2020 census. The plain language of the 14th Amendment, as well as a unanimous opinion of the Supreme Court, leaves no room for argument: Everyone who “inhabits” the U.S. must be counted.

But Barr claims that Congress has delegated to the Commerce Department an ability to advance an Orwellian definition of “inhabitant.” He called it an “arguable position.” It isn’t arguable; it’s wrong.

And given that it is the attorney general’s job to uphold the law of the land, he shouldn’t even bring up the theory, regardless of the half- or quarter-baked views of the president.

Barr’s partisan proclamations went on and on, with this whopper as a high point: “From my experience, the president has played a role properly and traditionally played by presidents.”

The most chilling aspect of the hearing, however, was Barr’s refusal to rule out applying the same politicized approach to pivotal issues related to the election, now less than 100 days away.

He reiterated his claim — with no support other than his own “common sense” — that mail-in voting threatens widespread fraud. If the Justice Department goes to battle in support of this view, it could provide a deeply unfair advantage to Trump, given that voting by mail increases turnout and increased turnout helps Democratic candidates.

More ominously yet, Barr made it clear he had no compunction about releasing the report he has ordered up from U.S. Atty. John Durham on the beginnings of the Robert S. Mueller III probe, an investigation Barr has already termed “bogus,” even though it produced 37 convictions and an unquestioned body of evidence showing that Team Trump engaged in obstruction of justice.

It’s entirely plausible that Barr would time the release of Durham’s report for maximum impact on the election. That would be a straightforward violation of DOJ policy, which specifies that the department “may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election,” but Barr has a novel interpretation of those words: The policy is inapplicable if such actions aren’t directed at a particular candidate. That reading doesn’t hold water.

In front of the Judiciary Committee, the attorney general insisted repeatedly that he doesn’t speak to the president, much less take orders, about how to resolve individual cases. But Barr’s performance demonstrated how little that matters. He knows what Trump wants and needs — no memo or Oval Office discussion required. That’s what makes him so valuable to Trump, and so dangerous to democracy.

@HarryLitman

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Senate Democrats Block Mitch McConnell’s Unemployment Benefits Cut

On the same day that the US registered a record decline in GDP, Republicans tried to cut unemployment benefits but were blocked by Senate Democrats.

Report from CNBC:

CNN’s Manu Raju tweeted:

Second-quarter GDP plunged by 32.9%. Jobless claims are up for the second straight week, but Mitch McConnell is refusing to pass a coronavirus relief bill unless corporations get liability protection from making their workers sick.

McConnell, Trump, and Senate Republicans are trying to force workers back into jobs that are increasingly vanishing. If Republicans want the economy to improve, they need to deal with the pandemic. The strategy of ignoring the pandemic and trying to bring the economy back to normal is not working.

Democrats are standing up for the unemployed and the safety of workers.

While Republicans ignore the crisis and try to get Trump reelected, Democrats are the only party that understands the severity of the pandemic and cares about the health and welfare of the American people.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

Follow Jason Easley on Facebook

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Flynn Update: Order To Dismiss Case ‘Vacated’ Case Will Be Reheard In August

The internal battle in the courts and Department of Justice regarding the case against former national security advisor Michael Flynn has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. Now it seems the decision by a federal appeals court is prolonging the case.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued the order Thursday that challenged the Department of Justice’s request last month to drop the case against Flynn.

That order will allow the courts to revisit U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s request that the case not be dismissed and the case will be reheard by the full federal appeals court in Washington D.C.

The order to hear the set oral arguments is now scheduled for August 11.

Sidney Powell, Flynn’s defense attorney, could not be immediately reached for comment.

“Further ordered is that the court’s order filed June 24, 2020 be vacated,” stated the order. It also stated that an “oral argument before the en banc court 9:30 am on Tuesday, August 11.”

U.S. Attorney General William Barr disclosed this week that he has appointed U.S. Attorney John Bash from the Western District of Texas, to investigate the “unmasking” Flynn that led to the national security leak in The Washington Post.

The Post’s David Ignatius revealed in January, 2017 the details of a classified telephone conversation between Flynn and former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. That conversation had been intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials monitoring the Russian Ambassadors communications.

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WATCH LIVE: Funeral service for civil rights icon John Lewis

ATLANTA (AP) — When John Lewis is mourned, revered and celebrated at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Thursday, he returns to a sacred place imbued with civil rights history.

The arc of Lewis’ legacy of activism will once again be tied to Ebenezer’s former pastor Martin Luther King Jr., whose sermons Lewis discovered while scanning the radio dial as a 15-year-old boy growing up in then-segregated Alabama.

King continued to inspire Lewis’ civil rights work for the next 65 years as he fought segregation during sometimes bloody marches, Greyhound bus “Freedom Rides” across the South and later during his long tenure in the U.S. Congress.

Lewis died July 17 at age 80.

Former President Barack Obama will be attending Thursday’s funeral and is expected to address mourners, according to a person familiar with the arrangements who was not authorized to speak publicly. President George W. Bush’s office said the former president and first lady Laura Bush also will attend.

“He was my hero,” Ebenezer’s senior pastor, The Rev. Raphael Warnock, said in an interview late Wednesday. “He laid it all on the line, at the risk of life and limb.”

“He read the Gospel, and he actually believed it — love your enemies,” added Warnock, who will officiate the funeral.

When Lewis was 15, he heard King’s sermons on WRMA, a radio station in Montgomery, Alabama, he recalled in an interview for the Southern Oral History Program.

“Later I saw him on many occasions in Nashville while I was in school between 1958 and ’61,” Lewis said. “In a sense, he was my leader.”

King was “the person who, more than any other, continued to influence my life, who made me who I was,” Lewis wrote in his 1998 autobiography, “Walking with the Wind.”

By the summer of 1963, Lewis was addressing thousands of people during the March on Washington, speaking shortly before King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. He spoke then about Black people beaten by police and jailed — themes that resonate vividly in today’s times.

“My friends, let us not forget that we are involved in a serious social revolution,” Lewis told the huge crowd on the Washington Mall.

“To those who have said, ‘Be patient and wait,’ we have long said that we cannot be patient,” he added. “We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again.”

In 1965, Lewis was beaten by Alabama state troopers in the city of Selma in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Last Sunday, his casket was carried across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. The wagon rolled over a carpet of rose petals on the bridge that spans the Alabama River. On the south side of the bridge, where Lewis was attacked by the law officers, family members placed red roses that the carriage rolled over, marking the spot where Lewis spilled his blood and suffered a head injury.

Lewis was later awarded the Medal of Freedom by the nation’s first Black president in 2011.

He spent more than three decades in Congress, and his district included most of Atlanta.

On Monday, a memorial service at the U.S. Capitol in Washington drew congressional leaders from both parties. Lewis was the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. On Wednesday he was lauded as a warrior and hero during a ceremony at the Georgia Capitol, where people paid their final respects to the civil rights icon in one of the last memorials.

Lewis was a member of Ebenezer, and “it was my honor to serve as pastor to John Lewis, a man of faith and a true American patriot who selflessly risked life and limb in the sacred cause of truth-telling and justice-making in the world,” Warnock said in a statement before the funeral.

“He was wounded for America’s transgressions, crushed for our iniquities and by his bruises we are healed,” Warnock added. “Today we weep. Tomorrow we continue the work of healing that was his life’s work.”

___

Associated Press Writers Aamer Madhani and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed.

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Trump suggests delaying presidential election amid voting fraud claim

 President Donald Trump explicitly floated delaying November’s presidential election on Thursday, lending extraordinary voice to persistent concerns that he would seek to circumvent voting in a contest where he currently trails his opponent by double digits.

Trump has no authority to delay an election, and the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for voting.

But in his tweet on Thursday morning — coming 96 days before the election and minutes after the federal government reported the worst economic contraction in recorded history — Trump offered the suggestion because he claimed without evidence the contest will be flawed.

“With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA,” he wrote. “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

There is no evidence that mail-in voting leads to fraud.

Trump has previously sought to stoke fear and lay the groundwork to question the election’s results by promoting the idea that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud and a “rigged” election.

His tweet comes as a spate of recent polling in battleground states — and even states he won handily in 2016 — show him trailing or virtually tied with former Vice President Joe Biden, and widespread disapproval of his handling of the pandemic.

Asked about the issue in a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr said he had “no reason to think” that the upcoming election will be “rigged.” But he did say he believes that “if you have wholesale mail-in voting, it substantially increases the risk of fraud.”

But historically, voting by mail has not led to massive voter fraud. And nonpartisan election experts say the possibility of foreign entities printing millions of fraudulent mail-in ballots this November is highly unlikely.

The President does not have the power to change the date of the election. Election Day is set by congressional statute, and most experts agree that it cannot be changed without congressional approval.

Biden has previously raised the possibility of Trump attempting to delay the election.

“Mark my words: I think he is gonna try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can’t be held,” Biden said at a virtual fundraiser in April, according to a pool report.

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Four Must-See Moments from His House Testimony

Attorney General William Barr officially testified Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee for the first time in his more than one-year tenure with the Trump administration.

The hearing came nearly four months after Barr’s initial March 31 agreement to testify — which was proceeded by months of posturing that included several House Democratic subpoenas directed at the Justice Department, as well as the cancellation or delaying of previously scheduled inquisitions by both involved parties.

Once the hearing finally got underway, proceedings were hardly civil as House Democrats finally got the opportunity to field long-burning questions regarding the Justice Department’s 2020 presidential election preparations, response to recent nationwide civil unrest and the treatment of both the Mueller investigation and its resulting prosecutions.

The adversarial nature of the process, however, did little to spook Barr, making for a series of eye-catching moments on the part of the attorney general.

1. “Before or after the fire was put out?”

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A primary Democratic concern from early on in the hearing was whether the federal law enforcement response to ongoing riots and racial unrest in America’s largest metropolitan areas has been lawful and proportionate.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland revived that line of questioning roughly midway through the afternoon, applying particular scrutiny to enforcement tactics employed in the June 1 suppression of destructive demonstrations in and around the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C.

The Lafayette Square incident had been the subject of major controversy last month, with progressives decrying President Donald Trump and his administration for the employment of non-lethal weapons in attempts to disperse crowds outside the church, which had fallen victim to arson the previous evening.

Do you think House Democrats treated Barr unfairly during the hearing?

Referring to the law enforcement response as an “assault,” Raskin became the recipient of cutting pushback from the attorney general Tuesday after the Democratic congressman attempted to use the negative public remarks of church leadership to bolster his claim that the DOJ had overreacted.

“Are you aware the rector of the church, that the Episcopal archbishop of Washington and the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church nationally, along with the Catholic bishop of the archdiocese of Washington, all denounced this police assault on the civil rights and civil liberties of the people?” Raskin asked.

“Did they do that before or after the fire was put out?” Barr asked in response.

2. “A very Rube Goldberg theory”

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Another contentious issue on the docket Tuesday was the presidential commutation of 2016 Trump campaign associate Roger Stone‘s 40-month federal prison sentence for charges that included lying to Congress and witness tampering regarding the Russian election interference investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Former 2020 Democratic presidential primary hopeful and California Rep. Eric Swalwell pressed the attorney general hard on the incident, demanding to know whether the Justice Department was investigating Trump and Stone for a potential quid pro quo involving the commutation and Stone’s previous unwillingness to testify against the president.

“If Donald Trump lied to the Mueller investigators, which you agree would be a crime, then Roger Stone was in a position to expose Donald Trump’s lies,” Swalwell, a former prosecutor, surmised. “Are you familiar with the Dec. 3, 2018, tweet where Donald Trump said Roger Stone had shown guts by not testifying against him?”

“No, I am not familiar with that,” Barr said.

“You don’t read the president’s tweets?” Swalwell asked. “Well, there’s a lot of evidence in the president’s tweets, Mr. Attorney General. I think you should start reading them.”

The congressman would go on to question the attorney general as to why presented social media postings and public statements from Stone did not constitute probable cause for a federal investigation into the matter.

“We require a reliable predicate before we open a criminal investigation,” Barr said.

“And I just gave to you, sir–” Swalwell responded before being cut off by the attorney general.

“I don’t consider it,” Barr said. “I consider it a very Rube Goldberg theory that you have.”

“And by the way, if I applied your standard, there would be a lot more people under investigation,” he added, looking intently at various members of the committee.

3. “You’re a real class act, Mr. Chairman”

As the hearing dragged on into its third hour Tuesday, Barr set off another unexpectedly tense standoff — this time with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler over requests for a short break in the proceedings

“I’m sorry, Mr. Chairman, could I– could we take a five-minute break,” Barr asked Nadler in a down moment while the line of questioning was transferred from one committee member to the next.

Nadler rejected the request, quickly cut off by ranking Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, who reminded the chairman that unscheduled breaks are often a “common courtesy” extended to congressional witnesses.

“I waited 45– an hour for you this morning,” Barr said. “I haven’t had lunch. I’d like to take a five-minute break.”

Promising the hearing would soon come to its conclusion, Nadler rejected the request a second time.

“Mr. Attorney General, we are almost finished,” Nadler said. “We are going to be finished in a few minutes. We can certainly take a break, but–“

“You’re a real class act, Mr. Chairman,” Barr responded sarcastically, “a real class act.”

Jordan then interjected once again to address the chairman, saying, “He wants a break now, and you just mentioned rudeness. I think we’re seeing it on display. Let’s let the attorney general have a break.”

Nadler then relented, granting Barr’s request for recess.

4. “This is a hearing”

In an afternoon punctuated by partisan grandstanding and frequent interruption of the attorney general, Barr also turned heads with an offhand request that he “be heard” at his own congressional hearing.

The interaction came as Barr fielded questions from Democratic Rep. Lou Correa of California regarding the Justice Department’s role in Trump’s hard-fought push to see the issue of citizenship and illegal immigration addressed on the United States census.

“Let’s talk a little bit about the census,” Correa said. “Every 10 years, we decide how many congressional sears each state gets, how much funding for schools, health care, other issues each region gets. Let’s talk about the president’s memo directing the commerce secretary to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment count of the 2020 census.”

“Are undocumented people not whole individuals?” Correa asked, pushing Barr on the Justice Department’s position as to whether illegal immigrants fall under the category of U.S. “inhabitants” to be counted by the Census Bureau for the purposes of nationwide congressional apportionment and re-districting.

“They are obviously people,” Barr said. “The legal issue there was the terminology of the Constitution.”

“What the department advised — this came up because Alabama claims you cannot count illegal aliens in the Census under the Constitution — the department looked at it and advised that Congress can determine the meaning of ‘inhabitant’ for this purpose, that it is not a self-defining term,” Barr said.

Attempting to squeeze in another question before his time expired, Correa spoke over the attorney general, saying, “We’ve only got two minutes, sir. Mr. Barr, if I may–“

“Yeah, but this is a hearing,” Barr said.

“I thought I was the one who was supposed to be heard.”

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